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A duo thatís sweet on new biomarkers
June 2012
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author

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PINE BROOK, N.J.óIntending to focus on urological cancers, Ezose Sciences Inc.óan affiliate of the Diagnostics Division of Osaka, Japan-based Shionogi & Co. Ltd.óis teaming up with another player in Japan, Hirosaki University, to identify new biomarkers for use in predicting and monitoring the progression of various cancers, notably those of the prostate.  
 
Using Ezose's GlycanMap platform, the research will examine serum and urine samples collected by Hirosaki University clinical investigators from well-characterized patient and control populations in Japan, to then be analyzed by Ezose at its U.S. laboratories.  
 
"This agreement marks another step that scientists at Ezose and in universities are taking together to improve our understanding of the role of glycans in health and disease," said Dr. Hidehisa Asada, vice president of research and development at Ezose, in the news release about the collaboration. "Given the already established clinical utility of glycan-based biomarkers in certain cancers, we believe that further studies in oncology hold promise for identifying other novel biomarkers that could help guide clinical practice."  
 
The short-term strategic goals of the collaboration, Asada tells ddn, are to identify novel and clinically useful glycan biomarkers for prostate cancer progression and generate intellectual property rights. Under terms of the agreement, Ezose is granted exclusive rights by Hirosaki University to develop and commercialize new biomarkers resulting from the collaboration.  
 
"By exercising or licensing IP rights, we would ultimately commercialize new biomarkers to help guide drug development and clinical practice," he says, adding that the long-term goals are to expand research to other types of cancers "to understand which glycans play an important role in disease development and progression. This may also create opportunities to identify new drug targets for attacking disease."  
 
The market favors an approach like this because "glycomics [the study of sugar chains that, through glycosylation, become attached to many proteins expressed by human cells] is beginning to come into its own as a basic tool in biomedical research," says Dr. Chikara Ohyama, chairman of the Department of Urology at the Hirosaki University Graduate School of Medicine on the university's campus in Hon-cho. "We look forward to applying this new technology to unmet medical needs in managing urologic cancers through the complementary contributions of Ezose's scientists and our own."  
 
Ezose and Hirosaki maintain that glycomics is a natural complement to genomics and proteomics, but note it has traditionally been hindered by the lack of practical high-throughput and quantitative technologies. Ezose's GlycanMap platform is intended to addresses this need by combining, in an automated 96-well format, high-throughput glycan enrichment with specialized MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry and custom bioinformatics to both structurally identify and quantitate glycans present in complex biological samples.  
 
Asada says talks about the collaboration started when Ohyama visited the Ezose company booth at the annual conference of the Society for Glycobiology in 2009, which was just after Ezose had begun operations as a start-up, and Ohyama's strong leadership and publications in glycobiology research related to urology proved to be attractive to Ezose. For Ohyama, Asada says, the attraction was Ezose's unique high-throughput capabilities in glycan analysis.  
 
"We have complementary skill sets to drive potential products based on glycan biomarkers from bench to bedside," Asada says. "Hirosaki University has state-of-the-art facilities and trained leaders in clinical urology who can facilitate quick enrollment and collection of clinical samples for collaborative biomarker research. Also, Prof. Ohyama's glycobiology expertise offers opportunity for collaborative interpretation of the glycan changes observed in cancer development and progression. Ezose Sciences brings to the collaboration its proprietary GlycanMap analysis platform. This technology facilitates, in a way generally not possible before, the high-throughput identification and quantitation of glycans in clinical samples. In addition, Ezose's sophisticated bioinformatic tools for data readout and visualization allow the collaborators to more broadly review and interpret glycan data."   
 
Urologic cancers, such as those of the bladder and prostate, are highly prevalent worldwide, and significant unmet needs remain for both the medical management and treatment of these diseases, Asada points out. 
 
"Prof. Ohyama and the team at Hirosaki are world leaders in researching these diseases, and one of the few groups focused on glycobiology as a new area of promising study," he tells ddn. "Yet they, like others working in glycobiology, have been limited by the lack of suitable high-throughput analytic methods to more rapidly progress their work. Together, we believe that we can much more rapidly progress studies to advance our understanding of these diseases and improve medical management and treatment for patients."  
 

 
Ezose Sciences and Sigma-Tau advance projects in glycomics  
 
PINE BROOK, N.J.óIn April, Ezose Sciences Inc. also announced an agreement to apply its glycomics capabilities to biologics research and development projects at Sigma-Tau Industrie Farmaceutiche Riunite SPA, an Italian pharmaceutical group that specializes in immuno-oncology, biotechnology and rare, neglected and/or high social-impact diseases.  
 
The collaboration will build on R&D work conducted under prior agreements between Ezose and Sigma-Tau. Financial terms and other details were not disclosed.  
 
Marco Brughera, corporate R&D managing director of Sigma-Tau, said in a statement, "As a company committed to innovation, we rely not only on the contributions of Sigma-Tau's in-house scientific talent, but also on the support of others who are pioneering their special fields. We welcome this opportunity to work with Ezose in bringing their unique glycomics capabilities to our research program."
 
Code: E061207

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