Meeting handshake

GeneCentric Therapeutics has broadened its tool set for subtyping cancer patients by acquiring Select ImmunoGenomics, a provider of advanced immunogenomic, data analysis, and biomarker development services to support the development of immuno-oncology drugs. The combined company now boasts a large, integrated set of RNA-based solutions for identifying the right patients for specific oncology drugs and improving response rates, treatment durability, and ultimately patient outcomes. Financial terms were not disclosed.

A number of checkpoint inhibitors have been approved for multiple indications in recent years, with the world market expected to grow from $1 billion in 2013 to $7 billion by 2020. However, there is still frustration that only a fraction of patients responds to any of these drugs.

“GeneCentric’s strengths in bioinformatics and RNA-based informatics are a natural fit with our immuno-therapeutics focus,” said Benjamin Vincent, M.D., company co-founder and professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC). “While immunotherapy has revolutionized cancer care, a majority of patients still do not benefit. A huge challenge in the field is identifying which drugs will benefit which patients. Our computational genomics and systems biology approaches converge to address this challenge, as well as to apply genomics to develop more effective cancer therapies.”

“There is growing recognition that many factors beyond gene mutations contribute to drug response, including gene expression, activation, and signaling pathways as well as adaptive and innate immune status,” said Myla Lai-Goldman, M.D., founder and Executive Chair of GeneCentric. “Integration of both companies’ technologies will uniquely allow us to capture the complexity of tumor biology in predictive response signatures to accelerate and add value to our partners’ drug development programs.”

GeneCentric’s Cancer Subtyping Platform (CSP) builds on the work of company co-founders, Charles Perou, Ph.D., and Neil Hayes, M.D. By applying CSP to specific malignancies, GeneCentric has developed a portfolio of universal cancer subtype biomarkers, which they have dubbed “profilers.” Such biomarkers have already been developed for lung cancer and head and neck cancer. Profilers for bladder and prostate cancer are planned next, to be followed by colorectal and ovarian cancer.

Select ImmunoGenomics was founded by Vincent, an expert in computational immunogenomics, and his UNC colleague Joel Parker, Ph.D., a genomics and data science expert. Vincent was an author of a 2018 paper on “The Immune Landscape of Cancer,” which described an immunogenomic analysis of more than 10,000 tumors comprising 33 cancer types using data from The Cancer Genome Atlas. More recently, Parker published a report in April 2019 on “Genomic and Immune Characterization of Triple Negative Breast Cancer Brain Metastases.”

Select ImmunoGenomics has provided data analysis, predictive modeling and reporting in support of genomic studies, biomarker development, and biomarker validation services. Its clients have included research, diagnostic, and drug development organizations. Vincent and Parker will now serve as advisors to GeneCentric.

“By joining Drs. Vincent and Parker’s technology platform to GeneCentric’s, the ability to advance predictive therapeutic response gene signatures grows substantially,” said Michael Milburn, MD, CEO & President of GeneCentric Therapeutics, Inc. “The combined technologies will create a wealth of opportunities for the company going forward.”

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