In This Issue...

Brigham and Women's Hospital Joins NINDS Parkinson's Biomarkers Search

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) has formed an alliance with Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) to accelerate the search for Parkinson's disease biomarkers. As part of this agreement, Clemens Scherzer, MD, a BWH neurologist and researcher, was awarded $2.6 million over 5 years to develop biomarkers and facilitate NINDS access to BWH's premier data and biospecimens bank for Parkinson's. Scherzer and colleagues believe that "dark matter" RNA transcribed from so-called "junk" DNA contributes to the complexity of normal dopamine neurons and, when corrupted, Parkinson's disease. Working off of this theory, his team's project will initially search for these RNAs in the brain tissue of individuals in the earliest stages of the disease. Then, the team will look for related biomarkers in the bloodstream and cerebrospinal fluid of both healthy subjects and those with Parkinson's. According to Scherzer, such biomarkers will make Parkinson's clinical trials more efficient and less expensive, while also improving physicians' abilities to monitor patient disease progression and treatment response.

Thermo Fisher Buys Life Technologies

Thermo Fisher Scientific has inked a deal to acquire Life Technologies for approximately $13.6 billion, plus the assumption of net debt when the deal closes in early 2014. Life's portfolio includes an extensive range of products and services in genomics and molecular and cell biology, as well as next-generation sequencing capabilities. By merging these strengths with Thermo Fisher's offerings in analytical technologies and specialty diagnostics, the companies aim to accelerate results for proteomics, genomics, and cell biology customers through the convergence of life sciences tools and diagnostics. "The acquisition of Life enhances all three elements of our growth strategy: technological innovation, a unique customer value proposition, and expansion in emerging markets," said Marc N. Casper, president and chief executive officer of Thermo Fisher.

OGT Signs Licensing Agreement for ICR Prostate Cancer Biomarkers

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) has granted Oxford Gene Technology (OGT) a license to further develop and commercialize a new panel of diagnostic and prognostic microRNA biomarkers for prostate cancer. OGT and the ICR discovered these markers during a previous 3-year collaboration. Unlike present techniques for prostate cancer screening, which involve the biomarker prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and a digital rectal examination, the biomarkers discovered by OGT and the ICR have a specificity of more than 90%. Additionally, they have the potential to not only identify prostate cancer but to also assess its aggressiveness. This will allow physicians to tailor treatment based on prognosis. OGT plans to evaluate the biomarker panel in tissue, blood, and urine samples, with initial translation of the assay to blood-based PCR testing showing promising results, according to OGT's press release.

Quest and PrimeraDx Ink Co-Diagnostics Deal

PrimeraDx and Quest Diagnostics have entered a non-exclusive diagnostics co-development agreement that allows Quest to use the PrimeraDx ICEPlex platform to independently develop and use laboratory tests in early-phase biomarker and drug development studies and clinical trials. PrimeraDx then has the rights to develop and market any resulting co-diagnostics, while the agreement also enables Quest to validate and offer clinical diagnostic information services based on these assays. The two companies initially plan to focus on cancer, although they may branch out into infectious diseases, genetics, and other conditions. The ICEPlex system picks up multiple molecular changes due to its ability to simultaneously detect and quantify disparate target types such as mRNA, miRNA, SNPs, DNA mutations, fusions, and DNA methylation.