Predictive and preclinical partnership

Cenix BioScience and Debiopharm Group launch predictive biomarker collaboration

Ilene Schneider
DRESDEN, Germany—Cenix BioScience, a leading preclinicalcontract research organization (CRO) and technology developer, will identifypredictive biomarkers for Debiopharm Group preclinical oncology candidatesunder a collaborative agreement. Financial terms and specific drug candidateshave not been disclosed.
 
 
Debiopharm said that Cenix's RNAi screening technology wasthe key reason for selecting the CRO for its drug development services. Theendeavor will support Debiopharm in its ongoing efforts to develop noveltherapeutic drug candidates and illustrates Debiopharm's ongoing drive tointegrate cutting-edge technologies and powerful post-genomic strategies towardfurther refinement of its personalized medicine approach and the development ofnew therapeutics, according to Dr. Hiroaki Tanaka, director of personalizedmedicine at Debiopharm. 
 
As Tanaka says, "The opportunity to benefit from such depthof knowledge, experience and extensively validated capabilities is consideredas the most strategically important resource for preclinical biomarkersdiscovery."
 
Under the research framework's first project, Cenix, whichspecializes in RNAi-, miRNA- and high content-driven pharmacology, willdetermine potential biomarkers for Debiopharm, which focuses on the developmentof prescription drugs that target unmet medical needs, including oncology andcompanion diagnostics, by combining high-throughput screening with high-contentassays in cultured human cells. Multi-parametric microscopy-based readoutsestablished by Cenix with the Definiens XD image-analysis platform will be usedin a range of human cancer-cell models to identify genes and pathways thateither enhance or suppress the relevant drug's therapeutic effects. 
 
 
Dr. Christophe Echeverri, CEO and chief scientific officerof Cenix BioScience, says his company was "gratified by this implied trust fromyet another world-class and forward-leaning drug development organization,which also happens to be a long-standing expert in R&D outsourcing." Hesays the collaboration would extend Debiopharm's repertoire "with what weconsider to be some of the most strategically powerful cell-based screeningparadigms developed to date."
 
Started in October 1999 in Germany as a spinout from theEuropean Molecular Biology Laboratory and the Max Planck Institute forMolecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Cenix was founded as the firstbiotechnology company to focus specifically on accelerating and broadening theapplication of RNAi gene silencing technology toward the discovery andfunctional characterization of human genes for the development of novelmedicines in a wide range of disease fields, according to its website. Thecompany, which now has operations in Belgium and the United States, also hasresearch agreements with the Children's Tumor Foundation, a nonprofitorganization that funds research into neurofibromatosis, and Ugichem, agene-silencing therapeutics developer. 
 
 
Cenix conducts contract research and develops new reagenttechnologies focused on a wide array of preclinical cell-based and in-vivo applications, including RNAi-based gene silencing,miRNA modulation, compound testing, advanced genomics analyses and high-contentscreening to accelerate drug discovery and development. The company describesits mission as "contract research and technology development focused oncell-based and in-vivoapplications of RNAi, miRNA modulation and high-content phenotyping toaccelerate the discovery and validation of novel therapeutic targets andpreclinical development of emerging drug candidates."
 
Switzerland-based Debiopharm in-licenses, develops and/orco-develops biological and small-molecule drug candidates in preclinical andclinical phases. Debiopharm develops its products for global registration andaccess to the largest number of patients worldwide. The products areout-licensed to pharmaceutical partners for sales and marketing. While thecollaboration with Cenix is compatible with Debiopharm's main area ofexpertise—developing oncology drugs—the company also seeks to produce drugs forinfectious, metabolic and immune-mediated diseases, as well as neurodegenerativedisorders, thus targeting unmet medical needs. 
 
 
Debiopharm is active in the field of companion diagnostics,with a view to progressing in the area of personalized medicine. The companyalso identified several predictive biomarker candidates, including a genesignature, through a collaboration with CRO Oncotest, using the latter's 3Dassay system for patient-derived xenografts. Its core activities includelicensing new molecules presenting potentially superior therapeutic properties,after a robust search and evaluation process; taking the licensed moleculesthrough the entire development process, i.e., preclinical and clinical development, formulation, manufacturing andregistration; and selecting the best licensee(s) for the worldwidecommercialization of the registered drugs.

Ilene Schneider

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