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Predictive and preclinical partnership
July 2013
by Ilene Schneider  |  Email the author
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DRESDEN, Germany—Cenix BioScience, a leading preclinical contract research organization (CRO) and technology developer, will identify predictive biomarkers for Debiopharm Group preclinical oncology candidates under a collaborative agreement. Financial terms and specific drug candidates have not been disclosed.  
 
Debiopharm said that Cenix's RNAi screening technology was the key reason for selecting the CRO for its drug development services. The endeavor will support Debiopharm in its ongoing efforts to develop novel therapeutic drug candidates and illustrates Debiopharm's ongoing drive to integrate cutting-edge technologies and powerful post-genomic strategies toward further refinement of its personalized medicine approach and the development of new therapeutics, according to Dr. Hiroaki Tanaka, director of personalized medicine at Debiopharm. 
 
As Tanaka says, "The opportunity to benefit from such depth of knowledge, experience and extensively validated capabilities is considered as the most strategically important resource for preclinical biomarkers discovery."
 
Under the research framework's first project, Cenix, which specializes in RNAi-, miRNA- and high content-driven pharmacology, will determine potential biomarkers for Debiopharm, which focuses on the development of prescription drugs that target unmet medical needs, including oncology and companion diagnostics, by combining high-throughput screening with high-content assays in cultured human cells. Multi-parametric microscopy-based readouts established by Cenix with the Definiens XD image-analysis platform will be used in a range of human cancer-cell models to identify genes and pathways that either enhance or suppress the relevant drug's therapeutic effects.   
 
Dr. Christophe Echeverri, CEO and chief scientific officer of Cenix BioScience, says his company was "gratified by this implied trust from yet another world-class and forward-leaning drug development organization, which also happens to be a long-standing expert in R&D outsourcing." He says the collaboration would extend Debiopharm's repertoire "with what we consider to be some of the most strategically powerful cell-based screening paradigms developed to date."
 
Started in October 1999 in Germany as a spinout from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Cenix was founded as the first biotechnology company to focus specifically on accelerating and broadening the application of RNAi gene silencing technology toward the discovery and functional characterization of human genes for the development of novel medicines in a wide range of disease fields, according to its website. The company, which now has operations in Belgium and the United States, also has research agreements with the Children's Tumor Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds research into neurofibromatosis, and Ugichem, a gene-silencing therapeutics developer.   
 
Cenix conducts contract research and develops new reagent technologies 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-content screening to accelerate drug discovery and development. The company describes its mission as "contract research and technology development focused on cell-based and in-vivo applications of RNAi, miRNA modulation and high-content phenotyping to accelerate the discovery and validation of novel therapeutic targets and preclinical development of emerging drug candidates."
 
Switzerland-based Debiopharm in-licenses, develops and/or co-develops biological and small-molecule drug candidates in preclinical and clinical phases. Debiopharm develops its products for global registration and access to the largest number of patients worldwide. The products are out-licensed to pharmaceutical partners for sales and marketing. While the collaboration with Cenix is compatible with Debiopharm's main area of expertise—developing oncology drugs—the company also seeks to produce drugs for infectious, metabolic and immune-mediated diseases, as well as neurodegenerative disorders, 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 company also identified several predictive biomarker candidates, including a gene signature, through a collaboration with CRO Oncotest, using the latter's 3D assay system for patient-derived xenografts. Its core activities include licensing new molecules presenting potentially superior therapeutic properties, after a robust search and evaluation process; taking the licensed molecules through the entire development process, i.e., preclinical and clinical development, formulation, manufacturing and registration; and selecting the best licensee(s) for the worldwide commercialization of the registered drugs.
 
Code: E071319

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