B cells on the A-list
May 2012
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author


TUCSON, Ariz.—In an effort to develop tests that help identify patients most likely to respond to targeted therapy—a key step toward making personalized medicine practical—HTG Molecular Diagnostics has established a collaborative program with Bridgewater, N.J.-based Sanofi US, a subsidiary of French company Sanofi. In this program, the companies will work together to identify B-cell malignancy biomarkers that may lead to the development of a molecular companion diagnostic test to help identify patients most likely to respond to a novel Sanofi investigational agent that the companies decline to name at this time.
Sanofi tapped HTG Molecular Diagnostics in part because of the latter company's qNPA technology, which measures mRNA and/or miRNA expression in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tumor samples, allowing clinicians to verify the presence of certain biomarkers relevant to patient selection and therapy.   In the news release about the deal, TJ Johnson, CEO of HTG Molecular Diagnostics, noted that he is "pleased to be a partner with Sanofi in answering the need for personalized cancer treatments," since his company's qNPA "offers options in diagnostics testing of FFPE tissues not available in other commercial technologies."  
But it isn't the first time the companies have worked together.  
"To put it in context, we've had business relations with various areas in sanofi- aventis [as Sanofi was named prior to May 2011] for probably four or five years, and as HTG's business has focused much heavier into clinical applications around companion diagnostics and eventually molecular diagnostic tests, we've been making inroads and having discussions with many of the clinically oriented and biomarker areas within large pharmas, including the folks at Sanofi," Johnson tells ddn.  
He says there was no specific tipping point at which a conscious decision was made to do work along the lines of this biomarker collaboration, nor is there a narrow strategic goal with this specific collaboration.  
"It's really been a natural progression of our relationship," Johnson says. "As the strategy of HTG has shifted significantly away from being a tools company to really focusing on diagnostics, it was a natural function of the evolution of both our company and the relationship with Sanofi."  
That evolution of his own company included a refinancing of HTG last year and a move to bring in new strategic investors, Johnson explains, as well as bringing in a new team of "seasoned diagnostic veterans based around really great technology for FFPE. The confidence of our leadership team over this path is really building our relationships with clinical and biomarker groups across a wide swath of pharmaceutical companies. Our longstanding relationship with Sanofi eased our pathway into their biomarker areas, but it's also a testament to our shift in focus and our commitment, which has led to doors opening with multiple pharmaceutical clients."
Code: E051215

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