Vista Therapeutics to Develop Nanowire-Based Real-Time Biomarker Monitoring System

Vista Therapeutics has inked license agreements with both Harvard University and Nanosys securing the rights to several patents and patent applications related to the use of nanowires as biosensors. Under the terms of these contracts, Vista has gained access to a portfolio of intellectual property derived from the work of Charles Lieber, PhD, one of the company’s co-founders and a professor of chemistry at Harvard. This portfolio includes a wide range of applications in nanotechnology, nanomaterials, and the use of nanowire-based field effect transistors (FETs) as biosensors.

Specifically, Vista plans to focus on the use of nanowire-based FETs to provide real-time measurement of multiple blood and urinary biomarkers associated with organ and tissue injury, as well as with treatment- or therapeutics-associated adverse response. The company ultimately aims to commercialize these nanowire-based biosensors as part of its NanoBioSensor platform.

Vista CEO and co-founder Spencer Farr, PhD, stated that he believes this technology will enable physicians, clinicians, and pharmaceutical researchers to continuously monitor a variety of biomarkers in the same way that EKG instruments allow physicians to continuously monitor a patient’s heart function.

“The potential to commercialize this portfolio of nanowire technologies is quite significant and could fundamentally reshape approaches to the monitoring of medical emergency situations,” said Isaac T. Kohlberg, senior associate provost and chief technology development officer at Harvard. “Working together with Nanosys to license these patents to Vista, we’re able to move the technology forward and give it every opportunity to evolve from initial laboratory findings to commercial applications, which will benefit society.”

Qiagen, Protagen Partner on Protein-Based Co-Diagnostics for Autoimmune Disorders Protagen AG has entered into a long-term collaboration with Qiagen to develop protein-based companion diagnostics for autoimmune disorders. Under the terms of the agreement, Qiagen will gain access to Protagen’s proprietary SeroTag biomarker identification and development engine, which is an automated multiplex technology for the discovery and clinical validation of novel autoantigens. This platform enables the high-throughput discovery of biomarker candidates by measuring the levels of autoantibodies to thousands of different antigens in serum samples from thousands of patients.

“Following cancer, autoimmune disorders are currently the second largest therapeutic area for companion diagnostics in drug development with a significant unmet medical need,” said Rainer Metzger, vice president of Business Development Pharma at Qiagen. “Thanks to the collaboration with Protagen, we’ll now be able to offer our partners in the pharmaceutical industry a new diagnostic technology particularly well suited to advance personalized healthcare in autoimmune disorders and further expand our activities in this indication area.”

ARUP and PierianDx Team to Advance Genetic Testing

ARUP Laboratories has formed a partnership with PierianDx, a company whose primary offerings include a bioinformatics platform, workflow solutions and software, and a knowledgebase of clinical information from thousands of previous genomic tests. ARUP will join the PierianDx partner network to share tools, assays, and clinical information to expedite and improve the personalized interpretation of next-generation sequencing (NGS) tests. Additionally, ARUP will use PierianDx’s workflow management tools and NGS knowledgebase to more effectively access its own comprehensive knowledgebase of variants and clinical outcomes, as well as to benefit from the collective insights of other institutions in the PierianDx partner network. Together, the two organizations hope to provide faster and more efficient genetic testing for thousands of patients across the U.S.

“Our expectation is that by leveraging PierianDx’s visionary software and database, we will be able to more effectively learn from past assays and provide even more personalized recommendations to physicians so they can better match their patients to the right therapies,” said Edward Ashwood, MD, CEO and president of ARUP.

Medgenics, CHOP Collaborate on Pediatric Rare and Orphan Genetic Diseases

Medgenics, an ex vivo gene therapy company, has initiated a major research collaboration with The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) focused on pediatric rare and orphan genetic diseases. The goal of this partnership is to accelerate the development of new therapies for these underserved patients. Under the terms of the collaboration, Medgenics will gain access to the the biobank at CHOP’s Center for Applied Genomics, which is home to one of the largest bio­repositories of pediatric genetic infor­ma­tion and peptide and protein targets in the world. This wealth of data will enable CHOP and Med­genics researchers to identify new rare and orphan disease targets and speed the development of novel therapies into clinical stage programs.

“Approximately 10 percent of all rare and orphan disease patients in North America come through CHOP. This will give Medgenics and CHOP opportunities to link diseases and their genetic abnormalities with potential new treatment paradigms,” said Steven M. Altschuler, MD, CEO of CHOP.

USAID, Broad Institute, Illumina Join Forces on Ebola Sequencing Initiative

The U.S. Agency for International Development, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and Illumina have formed a public-private partnership to help combat the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. The partnership aims to train local and outbreak-deployed personnel to sequence viral genomes from the epidemic, and will also extend Ebola surveillance opera­tions. Genome sequencing of the virus is critical for tracking how the virus is moving and changing in real-time, and the information it provides may influence the development of diagnostics, vaccines, and therapies. To facilitate this effort, the partnership will equip facilities in West Africa with state-of-the-art genome sequencing technology that will aid in Ebola response now and in clinical monitoring and pathogen surveillance in the future. Sequencing and patient monitoring facilities will be created first in Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone, and over the longer term in other West African countries. These centers will also serve as hubs for the deployment of mobile laboratories to remote districts where large-scale capacity is not available.

Pathway Genomics, PROMPT Partner on Hereditary Cancer Research

Pathway Genomics Corporation has entered a collaboration with the Prospective Registry of Multiplex Testing (PROMPT), an online registry for patients who have undergone testing for cancer-causing genetic mutations. PROMPT is a recently formed consortium of physicians and scientists at academic centers across the nation, including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Mayo Clinic, Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The goal of the registry is to provide data needed to better understand the level of risk associated with and outcomes following testing for “panels” of cancer-associated genes.

Its first phase will involve creating a cohort of individuals and families who have consented to participate in studies examining cancer-causing­ genetic mutations. Pathway Genomics, which is a San Diego-based clinical laboratory that offers genetic testing services globally, is one of several labs that will provide information about the PROMPT registry site to patients and healthcare providers receiving panel test results. The second phase of the PROMPT study will then collect more clinical details, assess outcomes, and characterize individual gene variants in families.