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The power of protein
OXFORD, U.K.—Oxford Genome Sciences Ltd. (OGeS) has entered into a strategic collaboration with Amgen to discover, develop and commercialize novel therapeutic antibodies for the treatment of cancer. Amgen is the developer of the Xenomouse that produces Vectibix (panitumumab), the first totally human antibody made in a transgenic mouse.
OGeS was formed by the buyout of the Proteomics division of Oxford GlycoSciences in 2003 and has subsequently successfully undertaken two fundraisings to continue its development program. According to company CEO Dr. Christian Rohlff, the Oxford Genome Anatomy Project (OGAP) is now one of the world's largest human protein databases and currently contains information on about 15,000 proteins. The strength of the OGAP platform lies in the technique of sequencing the protein itself rather than relying on genomic gene array target identification, because gene array information cannot accurately predict the expression of the corresponding protein on the cell surface of the cancer, whereas proteomics can do so unequivocally, the company claims.
Under the collaboration, OGeS and Amgen will jointly discover novel antibodies for the treatment of cancer. The companies will generate fully human antibodies using Amgen's Xenomouse technology. These antibodies will be raised against novel targets via the OGAP database. The agreement covers up to six oncology programs, with Amgen having the right to select as many as three; OGeS will retain rights to the remainder. Amgen will provide the antibody leads and OGeS will carry out the initial preclinical assessment.
The company also expects to improve disease management and treatment outcomes by integrating diagnostics into its product development and commercialization activities. Companion diagnostics will allow the rapid identification of patients who are more likely to respond and those most likely to fail to respond to a given treatment regimen. They also may enable the identification of the individuals at risk from adverse events when receiving therapy based on the analysis of the changes in a specific individual's biomarkers. This is particularly significant in cancer where drugs work only in some patients but across several different cancer types.
OGAP is a combination of genetic, proteomic and clinical data from 58 human tissues and diseases. It contains approximately 5,000 cancer membrane proteins, which have revealed a large number of novel clinically relevant cancer drug targets and diagnostics.
"The benefits are two-fold," Rohlff states. "You can find targets that are expressed by certain cancers, for example, and you can identify proteins that are not targets because they are expressed broadly across many tissue types, thereby saving time and reducing costs."
The scale of the database also affords OGeS with the future potential to diversify from cancer research and to apply this approach to other diseases, Dr. Rohlff notes. From a competitive perspective, Rohlff believes it would be very difficult for others to replicate the database content in less than five years without prohibitive investment.
The Amgen deal is additive to OGeS's existing collaboration with Medarex, which taken together, are key to the company's planned transition from a target discovery to a product development company, Dr. Rohlff adds.