Ventana lines up third recent companion diagnostic agreement
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


TUSCONóVentana Medical Systems, Inc., a member of the Roche group, recently announced the beginning of a strategic collaboration agreement with Bayer Pharma AG for the development of a molecular companion diagnostic test that can help identify patients most likely to benefit from a novel Bayer antibody-drug conjugate (ADC).
Per the terms of the agreement, Ventana will develop, manufacture and commercialize a companion diagnostic test for one of Bayer's ADCs. Over a period of five years, both Bayer and Ventana can initiate additional development projects to develop molecular diagnostic tests that will support additional targeted cancer therapy drugs. Financial details for the collaboration were not disclosed.  
"We are very excited to partner with Ventana to develop a companion diagnostic for one of our ADC projects," Prof. Dr. Andreas Busch, Head of Global Drug Discovery and Member of the Executive Committee of Bayer HealthCare, said in a press release. "This constitutes another step for Bayer towards personalized medicine in cancer treatment as the selection of patients most likely to benefit from an ADC will increase the overall probability of therapeutic success for patients suffering from cancer."
Ventana brings to the partnership its diagnostic immunohistochemistry platform, which seeks to analyze the expression level of certain tumor targets serving as biomarkers in studies. This collaboration is the third such venture for Ventana lately, as the company has also announced another two strategic agreements, on with Pfizer, Inc. and one with Syndax Pharmaceuticals, Inc., both of which were also targeting companion diagnostics.  
Antibody-drug conjugates offer a new, more targeted approach to cancer treatment, one that has fewer detrimental effects on healthy cells like chemotherapy does, as Bayer notes on its website. The concept consists of taking advantage of the natural mechanism of the immune system to produce antibodies by coupling cancer drugs to antibodies that specifically target a certain tumor marker, preferably a protein that is only found on or in cancer cells. The antibodies then track down the proteins and attach to the targets, at which point "the biochemical reaction between the antibody and the target protein (antigen) triggers a signal in the tumor cell which then absorbs the antibody together with the active ingredient," Bayer explains. The bond between the antibody and the drug is designed by researchers to be released by cancer-cell-specific enzymes, since having a firm connection between the antibody and the cancer drug means that the drugs are not loose in the body damaging other cells.  
"At Ventana, our mission is to improve the lives of all patients afflicted with cancer," Mara G. Aspinall, President of Ventana, said in a press release regarding the agreement. "We are pleased to be Bayer's partner of choice to facilitate the worldwide development of this ADC. As new biomarkers and diagnostic tests become increasingly available, they provide valuable information about potential positive recipients for these novel agents. Translating excellence in science into effective, targeted treatments for patients is at the core of Roche's scientific vision for 'Personalized Healthcare,' and it is our highest priority now and into the future."
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