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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
14-Jul-2014

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Contact: Vanessa Loh
vanessa_loh@a-star.edu.sg
Biomedical Sciences Institutes (BMSI)

A*STAR partners Roche to develop new cancer therapeutics

Partnership with Roche Pharma Research and Early Development leverages a unique discovery by A*STAR's Bioprocessing Technology Institute to develop new approaches for cancer detection and treatment

IMAGE: BTI's mAbs have a novel mechanism of action; causing membrane damage to cancer cells that result in cell death. The image on the left shows untreated cancer cells, while the...

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Singapore--A*STAR's Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI) has entered into an agreement with one of the world's largest pharmaceutical company, Roche, to identify novel drug candidates for the detection and treatment of cancer. The partnership brings together BTI's capabilities in novel antibody discovery and Roche's expertise in developing monoclonal antibody (mAbs) therapeutics, opening up the possibility of improved treatment for cancer, a leading cause of death worldwide.

The collaboration makes use of BTI's discovery of a new mechanism where antibodies can directly target and destroy cancer cells, which has the potential for an entirely new class of cancer treatment. Cancer cells may be distinguished from normal cells by their elevated levels of sugar on the cell surface. The mAbs discovered and generated by BTI are able to recognise these sugar targets and allow more accurate identification of cancer cells as compared to traditional antibodies that only target proteins. mAbs generated by BTI are also unique in having a novel mechanism of action; they cause pores to form on the surface of cancer cells, leading to cell degradation and the eventual death of these diseased cells.

Dr Andre Choo, Principal Scientist at BTI and lead investigator for the project, said, "It is exciting to be able to generate a new class of mAbs that can specifically recognise sugars and lead to rapid death of diseased cells. This opens up new strategies to target and kill cancer cells."

Based on this discovery, scientists from BTI have developed a pipeline of mAbs for major cancers found in Singapore. The partnership with Roche will allow new diagnostic tests and cancer treatments to be developed more quickly and to be brought earlier to patient care. Such treatments could complement and augment existing cancer drugs and result in more effective and safer treatments for cancer patients.

Prof Lam Kong Peng, Executive Director of BTI, said, "This collaboration underscores the effectiveness of BTI's antibody research and allows us to leverage on Roche's expertise to develop novel antibody-based therapeutics. We are confident that this will be the start of a long and fruitful partnership that will not only benefit human health but also the biologics industry."

Dr. Juan-Carlos Lopez, Head of the Roche Pharma Research and Early Development Academic Relations and Collaborations, said: "Accessing external innovation through partnerships with public sector research institutes is crucial for identifying first-in-class or best-in-class opportunities. Bringing together the know-how of BTI and the expertise of Roche increases the chance of success in developing novel antibody-based therapeutics targeting both cancer and cancer stem cells which have the potential to revolutionize how we treat cancer."

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