Clarient, Inc. disclosed today details of an exclusive license for bringing to market a test developed by privately-held Minerva Biotechnologies. CLRT, as a leading provider of cancer diagnostic testing solutions, is an ideal choice for the development and commercialization of this test. The test identifies a specific biomarker, the MUC1* protein, which is associated with multiple cancers, including breast cancer.
Ron Andrews, CEO of CLRT, noted the “potential impact on cancer diagnostics” offered by this testing methodology for MUC1*, pointing out that while still “early in the evaluation process” this test offers advantages for diagnosing, selecting and monitoring the efficacy of therapy for solid tumors.
Andrews elaborated on the synergy between Minerva, its biomarker technology and CLRT’s business model, by saying, “Our growth model includes collaborating with academia and innovative companies, wherein the value of new biomarkers are defined.” Andrews went on to say that, once the test is validated, CLRT would use its “robust national pathology distribution network” to move forward with commercialization.
Founder and CEO of Minerva, Dr. Cynthia Bamdad, cited the “great deal of attention” surrounding Minerva’s discovery of the altered MUC1* on embryonic stem and cancer cells as evidence to be excited about the licensing agreement with CLRT.
“This is the first direct evidence that cancer cells grow by hijacking a normal stem cell mechanism that usually exists in a dormant state on healthy adult cells.” explained Bamdad.
Dr. Bamdad indicated that Minerva “has compelling evidence” showing cancer cells’ resistance to anti-cancer drugs is linked to the production of MUC1*. Bamdad pointed out that a recent Minerva article on blocking MUC1*, as a means of reversing “acquired resistance to cancer drugs”, appeared in this month’s journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.
CLRT estimates the development window for a test, of the predictive value of measuring MUC1* in patient samples, at about one year. As of yet, no MUC1*-targeting drug exists. However, this most recent test would identify patients for whom a MUC1*-disabling drug would be effective, thus there exists the potential to realize both types of product. CLRT and Minerva are intent on a collaborative effort in evaluating the clinical utility of the biomarker, and will validate the methodology via presentations and supporting papers to be presented at major cancer research and treatment symposia.
Andrews commented on the progress made in biomarkers for identifying cancers, saying “we need to be proactive in evaluating new markers, such as those implicating MUC1*.” Andrews further pointed out the five years CLRT has spent building a “commercial channel that could deliver complex cancer testing information into every community in the US, and building out a base menu of services to support the community pathologists.”
A final comment by Andrews hinted at the massive potential value of MUC1*, “especially for women who have developed a resistance to certain targeted therapies”, which could become a significant product in CLRT’s arsenal, promising steady returns for his Company’s investors.