Almac creates separate oncology division

By Kirsty Barnes

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Medicine

Ireland's Almac Group has announced the creation of a new oncology
division that will focus on the discovery and development of "novel
and innovative" approaches to treatment in this key disease area.

In the developed world, cancer is the second biggest killer after heart disease. In the US for example, it accounts for around one in every four deaths, with over half a million people dying from the disease every year, equating to more than 1,500 per day. The new oncology unit, which has been named Almac Discovery, will also concentrate on developing a therapeutic biomarker or companion diagnostic in parallel with each potential new drug it creates. A biomarker is a measurable DNA or RNA characteristic that is an indicator of normal biologic, pathogenic processes, or a response to therapeutic or other interventions. The pharmaceutical industry is seeing a continued evolution of clinical drug development towards increased reliance on biomarkers to guide development and improve the safety and efficacy of novel drugs. Meanwhile, companion diagnostic assays also have a variety of clinical uses, including the assessment of the potential efficacy or toxicity of a drug. It is anticipated that over the next few years, companion diagnostics will be of increasing importance in healthcare by enabling therapy decisions to be linked with information and guidance provided by specific, personalised diagnostic test results. Such practices are paving the way for more 'personalised medicine', whereby a patient's genetic information is used to prescribe drugs, or combinations of drugs, that will treat a specific patient's disease more accurately and reduce the emergence of side effects, so that treatments can be specificly tailored to each individual. Dr Stephen Barr, managing director of Almac Discovery said: "This is an exciting time in the field of personalised medicine and the potential benefits of our work are huge​." He said that Almac Discovery is currently looking to build its internal pipeline through a combination of partnerships and in-licensing. Projects will generally be taken to clinical proof of concept, or earlier, before out-licensing or partnering for further development. In creating a division that will develop drugs in-house, the company is stepping away from the typical research, development and manufacturing services that it offers the industry as the bread and butter of its business model. Sir Allen McClay, chairman and founder of the Almac Group said: "The launch of Almac Discovery is an exciting opportunity to drive forward a dedicated effort toward the development of novel therapeutics for the treatment of cancer​". "Almac Discovery provides us the opportunity to build upon the strong research base already established within the academic community within Northern Ireland in the basic biology of cancer, and make a real and lasting contribution towards the advancement of human health​."

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