TUSCON—Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., a member of the Rochegroup, recently announced the beginning of a strategic collaboration agreementwith Bayer Pharma AG for the development of a molecular companion diagnostictest that can help identify patients most likely to benefit from a novel Bayerantibody-drug conjugate (ADC).
Per the terms of the agreement, Ventana will develop,manufacture and commercialize a companion diagnostic test for one of Bayer'sADCs. Over a period of five years, both Bayer and Ventana can initiateadditional development projects to develop molecular diagnostic tests that willsupport additional targeted cancer therapy drugs. Financial details for thecollaboration were not disclosed.
"We are very excited to partner with Ventana to develop acompanion diagnostic for one of our ADC projects," Prof. Dr. Andreas Busch,Head of Global Drug Discovery and Member of the Executive Committee of BayerHealthCare, said in a press release. "This constitutes another step for Bayertowards personalized medicine in cancer treatment as the selection of patientsmost likely to benefit from an ADC will increase the overall probability oftherapeutic success for patients suffering from cancer."
Ventana brings to the partnership its diagnostic immunohistochemistryplatform, which seeks to analyze the expression level of certain tumor targetsserving as biomarkers in studies. This collaboration is the third such venturefor Ventana lately, as the company has also announced another two strategicagreements, on with Pfizer, Inc. and one with Syndax Pharmaceuticals, Inc.,both of which were also targeting companion diagnostics.
Antibody-drug conjugates offer a new, more targeted approachto cancer treatment, one that has fewer detrimental effects on healthy cellslike chemotherapy does, as Bayer notes on its website. The concept consists oftaking advantage of the natural mechanism of the immune system to produceantibodies by coupling cancer drugs to antibodies that specifically target acertain tumor marker, preferably a protein that is only found on or in cancercells. The antibodies then track down the proteins and attach to the targets,at which point "the biochemical reaction between the antibody and the targetprotein (antigen) triggers a signal in the tumor cell which then absorbs theantibody together with the active ingredient," Bayer explains. The bond betweenthe antibody and the drug is designed by researchers to be released by cancer-cell-specificenzymes, since having a firm connection between the antibody and the cancerdrug means that the drugs are not loose in the body damaging other cells.
"At Ventana, our mission is to improve the lives of allpatients afflicted with cancer," Mara G. Aspinall, President of Ventana, saidin a press release regarding the agreement. "We are pleased to be Bayer'spartner of choice to facilitate the worldwide development of this ADC. As newbiomarkers and diagnostic tests become increasingly available, they providevaluable information about potential positive recipients for these novelagents. Translating excellence in science into effective, targeted treatmentsfor patients is at the core of Roche's scientific vision for 'PersonalizedHealthcare,' and it is our highest priority now and into the future."