On the trail of oncology biomarkers

Evotec-Roche collaboration to focus on identifying protein-phosphorylations

Kelsey Kaustinen
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HAMBURG, Germany—Evotec AG and Roche recently announced thatthe two companies will be collaborating on novel protein activity-basedbiomarkers for several of Roche's oncology drugs that are under development.
 
Evotec will be using its PhosphoScout platform to discoverprotein-phosphorylations that can predict favorable dosage as well as efficacyof targeted cancer drugs in patients. For its part, Roche will be in charge ofconducting the clinical trials in addition to looking at development ofcompanion diagnostics for patient stratification, and the two companies willconduct several biomarker programs for therapeutic antibodies or small-moleculeinhibitors.
 
Financial details were not disclosed, but Evotec will receiveupfront and success-based payments from Roche for each program.
 
"We are very pleased to collaborate with Evotec AG andbenefit from the PhosphoScout technology to identify appropriatepharmacodynamics and patient stratification biomarkers," said Mike Burgess,global head of oncology for pharma research and exploratory development atRoche, in a press release about the partnership. "These biomarkers are core tothe development of targeted therapeutics for cancer therapy."
 
The collaboration is far from the first between Roche andEvotec, as the two companies have had a strong and productive businessrelationship since 2001, when they signed a chemical library contract by whichEvotec would supply chemical compound libraries and associated data to Roche,which would then use the compounds in their drug discovery programs. Thecontract grew and was expanded over the years, and since then, the twocompanies have come together to partner on license agreements for variouscompounds, diagnostics, oncology and in some of their most recent work, centralnervous system diseases (CNS) and treatment-resistant depression.
 
The partnership on the central nervous system is one of themost in-depth and long-standing between Roche and Evotec, as Roche hasoutlicensed part of its CNS portfolio for additional clinical development.
In this latest collaboration, Roche will handle thepreclinical and clinical studies, and Evotec will oversee analysis of thesamples provided. Roche's oncology products consist of drugs for a variety ofcancers—breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma,ovarian and basal cell carcinoma, to name a few—but representatives from Rochedeclined to comment specifically on which of the drugs in Roche's developmentpipeline the two companies would be focusing on.
 
The primary goal of the collaboration, discovery ofphosphorylation sites on proteins in cancer cells, will depend largely onEvotec's PhosphoScout platform. Using high-end mass spectrometry, the platformidentifies and quantifies thousands of cellular phosphorylation events on aglobal scale and allows systems-wide profiling of signaling pathways.
 
Studyingthe changes in cellular phosphoproteome in responses to various drugs canelucidate the mechanism of targeted drugs and also lead to the discovery ofpredictive biomarkers. It provides the ability to study drug modes-of-action invivo.
 
"Biomarker-based personalized healthcare has led to aparadigm shift in cancer therapy," Dr. Werner Lanthaler, CEO of Evotec AG, saidin a press release about the latest agreement. "We are proud to partnerEvotec's novel biomarker concept with Roche, the world's leading personalizedhealthcare company, and its pharma research and development organization."


 
Evotec teams up with UCB on neurodegenerative, neurologicaldiseases
 
HAMBURG, Germany—Evotec AG also announced last month that ithas entered into a three-year integrated drug discovery collaboration with UCBto identify small-molecule modulators of priority biological targets, selectedby UCB, that are involved in central nervous system (CNS) disorders.
 
As part of the collaboration, Evotec will identifyinteresting small molecules against the selected targets. The molecules will befurther optimized and progressed through lead optimization to a preclinicalcandidate.
Evotec will receive a fixed research funding fee as well asearly-stage discovery, preclinical and clinical milestones over the term ofcollaboration. Evotec will also receive royalties based on net sales of anyapproved drugs from the collaboration. Specific financial details were notreleased.
 
Based in Brussels, Belgium, UCB is a globalbiopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development oftreatments for people living with severe diseases of the immune system or ofthe central nervous system. With more than 8,000 people in about 40 countries,the company generated revenue of $4.5 billion last year.

Kelsey Kaustinen

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