Metabolon aims to curb side effects

Randall C Willis
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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.—November 8, 2007—Metabolomics specialist Metabolon announced it will collaborate with the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). The contract will involve the use of Metabolon's discovery platforms to identify and characterize biochemical profiles of people receiving the AVA anthrax vaccine. Explains company CSO Mike Milburn: "This type of comprehensive biochemical profiling will help USAMRIID better understand the vaccine's safety, efficacy, and mechanism of action."
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.—At the recent SBS con­ference, biomarker specialist Metabolon launched mSelect, a service designed to highlight both on-target and off-tar­get effects of drug candidates. According to Dr. Dan Stevens, Metabolon marketing director, mSelect should help organiza­tions look at the effects of their drug candidates so that they can choose those candidates that are most effective for the next phas­es of clinical trials.
It is hoped the platform will help drug companies reduce or eliminate the number of drug candidates that fail during late-stage development. According to market research firm Frost & Sullivan, these failures cost companies $50 million to $70 million each.
"In a single sample, our metabolomics assay will assess almost the entire map of bio­chemical processes because we have a database of known metabolites that get assessed and tested in each sample," Stevens explains. "You're testing these candidates in a non-tar­geted and global fashion so that you can see both the on-target and off-target effects these drug candidates have in vitro."
According to company CSO Dr. Mike Milburn, mSelect is a natural extension of the metabo­lomic biomarker work for which Metabolon is best known, and was prompted by a proj­ect the company did with Bristol-Myers Squibb that required them to rank five HIV protease inhibitors (PIs). When treated with HIV PIs, he explains, patients often devel­oped insulin resistance and lumps or depos­its of fat in places where you normally don't collect fat.
"We were able to rank those compounds based on how much of an off-target biochem­ical effect they had," Milburn says. "Then we looked at the actual compounds they were changing. It looks like the liver cells are pro­ducing more fatty acids and exporting more triglycerides, and the fat cells have impaired energetics so they weren't able to utilize the energy store as well."
Metabolon decided to offer mSelect as a service rather than a platform, because they felt the marketplace isn't quite ready to put a lot of money into in-house metabolomics efforts. "We'll continue to do biomarker discovery studies with clients, but this will give potential clients an early opportunity to investigate this technology, learn about [it] and do so in a way that doesn't require many resources to get this information," Milburn says.
"We're still developing the technology and at some point it might become 'black box' enough that we could explore that as a business model but today, I think, you've got to have a lot of the experts to look at this data and it's probably a little early in the technol­ogy life cycle to go out and sell the 'X100' metabolomics platform," Stevens adds. "But as we improve the technology, as our soft­ware continues to get better, it wouldn't sur­prise me if that is eventually what we do."
Metabolon sees mSelect as just the first of a pipeline of services and products based on its biomarker efforts. Says Stevens: "The directive from the FDA is to really encour­age organizations to identify biomarkers for disease and the effect of those biomarkers throughout the development cycle—from early discovery through clinical."
As DDN goes to press, Metabolon announced its second product, mProveClin­ical, which tackles the issues around first-in-human studies.

Randall C Willis

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