Bayer Schering Pharma brings in cancer specialists VTT

By Mike Nagle

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cancer Dna Chemotherapy

Bayer Schering Pharma has decided to collaborate with Finnish
biotechnology specialists to study the mode of action of their new
cancer drug.

Bayer Schering Pharma has signed a two-year deal with the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT), the largest contract research organisation (CRO) in northern Europe. In their first collaboration with big pharma, VTT will use their new gene and cell biology processes to study one of Bayer's cancer drugs.

It is often difficult to establish exactly how a drug works, both in terms of the site it acts upon and its general interaction with cells. This is especially true of some anticancer drugs that often act on more than one target. Combined with an inability to differentiate between cancer cells and normal cells, non-specific drugs can cause many of the unpleasant side effects associated with chemotherapy.

Understanding a drug's mechanism of action is therefore a key step to developing better drugs with fewer side effects. These are the drugs that are more likely to be successful in clinical trials and ultimately be approved for use.

Dr Jost Reinhard, a spokesperson for Bayer Schering Pharma, told "We chose VTT for their expertise in cell biology and their understanding of cell proliferation and cell death that will be used to study the mechanism of action of our drug."

He added: "We hope this collaboration will help us to better understand not only how the compound works but also which types of cancer and which patients it could be applicable to."

Harri Siitari, technology and customer manager at VTT, explained to that the state-owned, not-for-profit institute would use a combination of different technologies to "verify mechanisms that take place at the molecular level."

The Finnish company's automated cell-based screening methods can "detect changes in living cells, for example their morphology or use fluorescent labelling to see specific events like cell death or proliferation,"​ said Siitari.

The number of copies of a specific gene in a cell is often elevated in cancer cells. For example, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) can be found in higher quantities than normal in non-small cell lung cancer cells. Siitari said that VTT's technology could quantify and verify this so-called 'gene copy number'.

VTT also utilise RNAi to study, in real time, how different genes affect cell behaviour. By combining the data from all of this technology together, VTT hope to provide Bayer with details of exactly how its drug works. Siitari also pointed out that VTT has the informatics expertise to ensure "the information is combined in the right way."

Bayer refused to comment on which cancer drug was being studied or the financial details of the deal. The compound was originally in development at Schering, who were recently acquired by Bayer and renamed Bayer Schering Pharma in the process.

An Extraordinary Stockholders' Meeting of the Bayer Schering Pharma recently resolved to effect a squeeze-out of the remaining minority stockholders, transferring their shares to Bayer Schering GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bayer, in return for cash compensation.

Researchers at Bayer described VTT as "one of the outstanding research sites in Europe."

Related topics Preclinical Research

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