Non-invasive biomarker pact

Organon and Philips enter molecular imaging, biomarker collaboration

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OSS, The Netherlands—N.V. Organon, the health care business unit of Akzo Nobel, and Royal Philips Electronics announced late last month a deal that will see Philips apply its molecular imaging technologies, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to discover biomarkers that Organon will in turn use in its ongoing research for new drugs and therapies for the treatment of psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia and depression.

"Our drug development programs for the treatment of psychiatric and immune disorders are expected to benefit from this collaborative research effort with Philips," says David Nicholson EVP, research and development with Organon. "We are convinced that biomarker research will accelerate the R&D process and improve the success rate of developing new molecular and biological therapies."

Under the terms of the agreement, whose financial details were not disclosed by the companies, scientists from Organon will work at the Philips life sciences facilities in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, to identify, validate and exploit novel biomarkers.

"The collaboration with Organon, a major global pharmaceutical company with a significant presence in the area of treatment of mental disorders and a leader in immunology, strengthens Philips' ambitions in the area of translational Molecular Medicine," says Hans Hofstraat, VP of Philips Research, strategic partnerships in healthcare. "Organon and Philips can jointly address the opportunities provided by the new paradigm of personalized medicine, by developing therapeutic drugs jointly with diagnostic tools."

The deal comes as Philips looks to become more active in the molecular medicine arena, by applying a number of its medical imaging and other technologies. According to Hofstraat, the company sees great potential in the molecular medicine and translation medicine areas and working with a partner such as Organon can help Philips accelerate its move into this area.

For its part, Organon hopes to be able to use the Philips technology for preclinical and clinical studies to help it identify novel biomarkers that indicate an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain—the underlying cause of psychiatric disorders.

At present, due to the complexities and selectivity of the blood-brain barrier, very few biomarkers for psychiatric disorders can be determined by analyzing blood samples. In addition, while some biomarkers can be detected by analyzing cerebrospinal fluid, the costs and risks associated with performing a spinal tap to collect the fluid are significant hurdles in a clinical trials setting.

"Our intention is to identify and validate novel biomarkers for specific disease areas," says Hans van den Berg, executive director, research coordination with Organon BioSciences. "We anticipate that these biomarkers will be used in clinical trials of drugs seeking [regulatory] approval."

Part of what made the collaboration possible is the close proximity of the two companies and the familiarity each had with the other. But the relationship goes a lot deeper than that, according to Hofstraat.

"Organon and Philips share the same vision with respect to opportunities and challenges of molecular medicine," he says. "Furthermore, Organon and Philips have complementary expertise and interests. Organon, in particular, contributes valuable expertise in the areas of drug discovery and development, and in all relevant aspects of pharmacological research."

Over time, the relationship between the two companies may migrate to include the joint development of products by the two companies, Hofstraat adds. These could possibly include the development of drugs and their companion diagnostics.

But for now, the two companies are working on setting up the working groups that will be housed at Philips. According to van den Berg, Organon anticipates that once the collaboration is running full speed, the pharma company will have 10 employees working full-time at the Eindhoven research campus.

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