Sending the right signals

Activiomics signs technology agreement with UCB

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LONDON—Activiomics has taken the wraps off a technologyagreement with Belgian biopharma UCB to apply its novel TIQUAS (TargetedIn-depth Quantification of cell Signaling) phospho-proteomics platform in acollaborative effort to elucidate signaling mechanisms of therapeutic antibodiesin relevant cell-based systems.
Activiomics is a privately owned spin-off company from theInstitute of Cancer at Barts and the London School of Medicine and DentistryatQueen Mary, University of London.
UCB, based in Brussels, Belgium, is a biopharmaceuticalcompany dedicated to the research, development and commercialization ofinnovative medicines with a focus on the fields of central nervous system andimmunology disorders.
Financial terms of the agreement have not been released.
"We have engaged with Activiomics because we recognize thattheir TIQUAS technology has advantages for our inflammatory program over othermethods available," says Simon Lamb, project leader at UCB. "It isquantitative, label-free and applicable to cell and tissue samples. Thistechnology will enable us to better understand cell signaling mechanisms of ourtherapeutic antibodies and could enable us to identify important biomarkers."
According to Activiomics CEO Mark Warne, UCB was anattractive partner for this collaboration because it "is a globalbiopharmaceutical company that has strong market presence in over 40 countriesand a reputation for engaging high-value strategic partnerships across theindustry. The agreement represents a further endorsement of our technology,which we believe has significant advantages over existing methods."
He adds that the team at UCB is seeking to better understandsignaling mechanisms of its therapeutic antibodies. 
"This partnership brings together UCB's therapeutic antibodycapabilities with Activiomics' expertise in cell signaling pathway analysis toprovide the best chance of identifying high-value biomarkers," he says.
"Theteams have already established a good working relationship and both lookforward to a fruitful partnership."
UCB is developing antibodies and small molecules to treat arange of autoimmune diseases including Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritisand systemic lupus erythematosus.
The company is targeting molecules thatregulate the immune system's inappropriate response to the environmental orintrinsic factors that trigger inflammatory disease.
Under the collaboration, for UCB's therapeutic antibodyprogram many of the experimental materials will be provided directly by UCB.
"Activiomics will be responsible for phosphoproteomics usingits proprietary TIQUAS technology and will provide world-leading expertise incell signaling," Warne notes. 
The goal of the collaboration, according to Warne, is "toelucidate signaling mechanisms of a therapeutic antibody using relevantcell-based systems with the potential of identifying therapeutically relevantbiomarkers. This activity is part of UCB's inflammatory program and willincorporate human primary samples."
TIQUAS, Warne explains, is a label-free phosphoproteomics platformthat quantifies global kinase activity without the need for labeling orantibody isolation.
"Unlike other phosphoproteomics techniques, TIQUAS cancomprehensively profile and cross-compare phosphopeptides, ensuring accurateand reproducible data," he says. "Activiomics' technology works by using aprotease to break down a cell or tissue extract into peptide fragments.
Phosphopeptide enrichment, mass spectrometry and our proprietary TIQUASsoftware enable thousands of phosphopeptides to be quantified from a givensample through the incorporation of a reference phosphopeptide database.
Cross-comparison of treated samples enables biomarker discovery and/or drugprofiling to be performed giving TIQUAS broad application across the drugdiscovery space."
The partnership could prove to be a boon for bothActiviomics and UCB.
"Ultimate success for our partnership would arise from theidentification of a novel biomarker that could be developed further into acompanion diagnostic product," Warne notes. "Near-term success will be measuredby completion of project goals."
Earlier this year, Activiomics signed a commercial agreement withGlaxoSmithKline through its Respiratory Centre of Excellence for Drug Discovery(CEDD), in a collaborative effort to investigate inflammatory signalingmechanisms.

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