In a coup for Advanced Cell Diagnostics (ACD), Johns Hopkins University has inked a deal with the company to supply its technology to help validate new biomarkers and drug targets useful for cancer immunotherapy.
Neither side is disclosing financial terms. But the work will be conducted at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins and involve ACD's RNAscope platform.
Biomarker research is crucial to cancer immunotherapy, ACD explains, as the treatment involves harnessing a patient's immune system to beat back cancer. Biomarkers are necessary to guide immune therapies specific to a given patient; molecules that modulate the immune system are thought to be viable targets in many different cancer subtypes. ACD says its RNAscope technology will be able to help pinpoint individual immune cell biomarkers, allowing for the identification of viable drug targets to supercharge the immune response and hopefully defeat the cancer in question.
ACD bills RNAscope as being able to both detect and quantify biomarkers with "single-molecule sensitivity."
Cancer immunotherapy has gained major traction lately. ACD cites one instance in which Johns Hopkins investigators successfully targeted PD1 in a number of solid tumors in early-stage cancer immunotherapy-related clinical trials. AstraZeneca's ($AZN) MedImmune, in another example, is working with the Cancer Research Institute and the Ludwig Institute on a series of trials in the space. MedImmune will contribute its CTLA-4 blocking antibody tremelimumab, an OX40 receptor agonist antibody, and a B7-H1- (or PD-L1-) blocking antibody dubbed MEDI4736. Both will be paired with compounds each institute is developing or outside programs.
ACD, meanwhile, continues to pursue an expansion fueled by a $12 million Series B financing secured in November 2012. The company is working with many other partners outside of academia, including Definiens, an imaging and data-analysis company based in Germany, and Roche's ($RHHBY) Ventana.
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