Oxford Genome Sciences advances on Amgen deal

By Kirsty Barnes

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Amgen, Immune system

Oxford Genome Sciences (OGeS) has taken a step closer to shedding
its service provider skin and morphing into a pharma firm after
entering a new cancer collaboration with Amgen, one of the world's
largest biotech firms.

The two firms will aim to generate human antibodies using Amgen's XenoMouse technology, which it inherited with the recent acquisition of Abgenix, in a bid to discover novel antibodies to act effectively against novel druggable cancer targets that OGeS has identified through its Oxford Genome Anatomy Project (OGAP) database. Once Amgen has produced the initial antibody leads, OGeS will carry out the initial pre-clinical assessment of each antibody programme. Through the partnership, OGeS said it now has access to two leading technologies that are used to generate fully human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), having got its hands on the other technology in September when it entered collaborations with Medarex and Biosite. Under this arrangement, Medarex licensed its transgenic mouse technology for generating therapeutic antibodies to OGeS and Biosite is set to develop companion diagnostic assays for certain OGeS projects. Interestingly, OGeS also set up a three-way agreement where Biosite will use the Medarex technology on OGeS' behalf and will carry out the early stage antibody generation, explained Dr Christian Rohlff, CEO of OGeS, in an earlier interview. All these deals are part of a concerted effort by OGeS to move away from being a services and discovery company, and towards becoming a fully-fledged pharma firm. Using its OGeS database, the firm was originally set up to provide biomarker discovery and screening services to pharma companies, and has since moved on to developing its own antibody drugs. While services provide useful short term income for fledgling pharma firms, launching drug products is where the real money is. However, until recently, once the discovery stage was completed, the company has been forced to partner its programmes out. Through its collaborations with Medarex, Biosite and now Amgen, OGeS is finally in a position where it can now advance its internal research further in-house. For example, six oncology programmes are covered under the agreement with Amgen, three of which Amgen will have the right to select, with the remainder of the rights going to OGeS. "[Deals such as this] are an important step in OGeS' transition from target discovery to product development, potentially allowing us to establish our own pipeline of antibodies in cancer,"​ said Rohlff in September. He also said that the way things are set up, instead of each company investing in the other, they are essentially swapping technology. As mentioned before, OGeS has gained access to mAbs generating technology, while on the other hand it is OGeS' OGAP database that attracted Amgen, Medarex and Biosite to the partnership. OGAP is claimed to be the world's largest proteomic/genomic data integration system, containing all clinical, experimental and expression data from one million peptide sequences from 50 tissues and 60 disease states, mapped to 15,000 genes and around eight million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and haplotypes. The information in the database is all proprietary and supports finding first- and best-in-class drugs, said Rohlff. The firm has remained tight-lipped as to the areas in cancer that it has been focusing on, instead stating that its discovery focus is currently "all on antibodies and all on cancers."

Related topics: Preclinical Research, Amgen, Preclinical

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