CRO Cenix signs on with Debiopharm for cancer R&D

German CRO Cenix BioScience has agreed to handle preclinical work for Debiopharm's oncology pipeline, using its high-content assays to identify biomarkers.

Under the deal, Cenix will use its Definiens XD analysis platform to screen for genes and pathways that could enhance or suppress the effects of Debiopharm's early-stage cancer treatment. Looking at cultured human cells, Cenix plans to ferret out the most effective applications for the drug, an important step in Debiopharm's foray into personalized medicine.

For the mid-sized Cenix, attracting Debiopharm is at once an affirmation of its biomarker-discovery prowess and a co-sign from a company that deals with many contractors from discovery through commercialization.

"We are very excited to launch this new relationship with Debiopharm, extending their repertoire with what we consider to be some of the most strategically powerful cell-based screening paradigms developed to date," Cenix CEO Christophe Echeverri said in a statement. "We deeply appreciate and are particularly gratified by this implied trust from yet another world-class and forward-leaning drug development organization, who also happens to be a long-standing expert in R&D outsourcing."

For Debiopharm, the deal follows an agreement last month with Indian CMO Shasun Pharmaceuticals to manufacture Huperzine-A, a drug designed to improve cognitive performance in patients with Alzheimer's disease. The Swiss-headquartered biopharma employs something of a middleman model, in-licensing candidate therapies, developing them and then out-licensing treatments for sales and marketing.

Under that model, signing on with Cenix will allow Debiopharm to accelerate its oncology programs toward an eventual licensing deal, the company said.

"We look forward to working with Cenix, whose specialist expertise, longstanding leadership and unrivaled track record in this field made them an ideal partner," Debiopharm Personalized Medicine Director Hiroaki Tanaka said in a statement. "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."

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