On the trail of oncology biomarkers
August 2011
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


HAMBURG, Germany—Evotec AG and Roche recently announced that the two companies will be collaborating on novel protein activity-based biomarkers for several of Roche's oncology drugs that are under development.
Evotec will be using its PhosphoScout platform to discover protein-phosphorylations that can predict favorable dosage as well as efficacy of targeted cancer drugs in patients. For its part, Roche will be in charge of conducting the clinical trials in addition to looking at development of companion diagnostics for patient stratification, and the two companies will conduct several biomarker programs for therapeutic antibodies or small-molecule inhibitors.
Financial details were not disclosed, but Evotec will receive upfront and success-based payments from Roche for each program.
"We are very pleased to collaborate with Evotec AG and benefit from the PhosphoScout technology to identify appropriate pharmacodynamics and patient stratification biomarkers," said Mike Burgess, global head of oncology for pharma research and exploratory development at Roche, in a press release about the partnership. "These biomarkers are core to the development of targeted therapeutics for cancer therapy."
The collaboration is far from the first between Roche and Evotec, as the two companies have had a strong and productive business relationship since 2001, when they signed a chemical library contract by which Evotec would supply chemical compound libraries and associated data to Roche, which would then use the compounds in their drug discovery programs. The contract grew and was expanded over the years, and since then, the two companies have come together to partner on license agreements for various compounds, diagnostics, oncology and in some of their most recent work, central nervous system diseases (CNS) and treatment-resistant depression.
The partnership on the central nervous system is one of the most in-depth and long-standing between Roche and Evotec, as Roche has outlicensed part of its CNS portfolio for additional clinical development. In this latest collaboration, Roche will handle the preclinical and clinical studies, and Evotec will oversee analysis of the samples provided. Roche's oncology products consist of drugs for a variety of cancers—breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, ovarian and basal cell carcinoma, to name a few—but representatives from Roche declined to comment specifically on which of the drugs in Roche's development pipeline the two companies would be focusing on.
The primary goal of the collaboration, discovery of phosphorylation sites on proteins in cancer cells, will depend largely on Evotec's PhosphoScout platform. Using high-end mass spectrometry, the platform identifies and quantifies thousands of cellular phosphorylation events on a global scale and allows systems-wide profiling of signaling pathways.
Studying the changes in cellular phosphoproteome in responses to various drugs can elucidate the mechanism of targeted drugs and also lead to the discovery of predictive biomarkers. It provides the ability to study drug modes-of-action in vivo.
"Biomarker-based personalized healthcare has led to a paradigm shift in cancer therapy," Dr. Werner Lanthaler, CEO of Evotec AG, said in a press release about the latest agreement. "We are proud to partner Evotec's novel biomarker concept with Roche, the world's leading personalized healthcare company, and its pharma research and development organization."

Evotec teams up with UCB on neurodegenerative, neurological diseases
HAMBURG, Germany—Evotec AG also announced last month that it has entered into a three-year integrated drug discovery collaboration with UCB to identify small-molecule modulators of priority biological targets, selected by UCB, that are involved in central nervous system (CNS) disorders.
As part of the collaboration, Evotec will identify interesting small molecules against the selected targets. The molecules will be further optimized and progressed through lead optimization to a preclinical candidate. Evotec will receive a fixed research funding fee as well as early-stage discovery, preclinical and clinical milestones over the term of collaboration. Evotec will also receive royalties based on net sales of any approved drugs from the collaboration. Specific financial details were not released.
Based in Brussels, Belgium, UCB is a global biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of treatments for people living with severe diseases of the immune system or of the central nervous system. With more than 8,000 people in about 40 countries, the company generated revenue of $4.5 billion last year.
Code: E081104

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