Avesthagen, India’s leading
integrated systems biology platform company, has established its
position as a key player in the successful application of next-gen
technologies as it announces the completion of the first Parsi breast
cancer whole genome sequence of a 74-year-old Parsi woman with a
heritable form of breast cancer.
The incidence of breast cancer in most populations is strongly linked
to a genetic base but little is known about the variants at the present
time. By employing whole-genome sequencing of affected individuals all
genetic variants linked to the disease can be identified. This expected
to lead to a broader understanding of breast cancer disease mechanisms,
development of new diagnostic tests, and discovery of new drug targets
and drug designing.
The Parsis are a distinct minority population living in India and
around the world with unique traits that include longevity, but also
predispositions to certain diseases, including breast cancer. By
comparing the genomes of Parsi individuals affected by breast cancer to
healthy individuals, both within the community and in the general
population, scientists will be able to identify those variations that
are most likely to be responsible for breast cancer.
This study is part of the Avestagenome project, a systems biology-based
study on the Parsi population to determine the genetic basis of
longevity and age-related disorders. The whole genome sequencing is
being carried out in partnership with The Genome Analysis Center
DBT, NIH strengthen research ties
To enhance the existing collaboration between neuroscience researchers
in India and US, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry
of Science & Technology, Government of India, has announced a
new Indo-US Brain Research Collaborative Partnerships (BRCP) program.
This is based on the joint statement signed by the DBT with the
National Institute of Health (NIH), US. The purpose of the BRCP program
is to support bilateral research collaborations between Indian and US
investigators in the field of neuroscience, with an emphasis on
understanding, treating and curing neurological, mental and addictive
Specific areas of research may include studies of mechanisms underlying
neurological, mental and addictive disorders and diseases, planning for
population-based research and clinical trials, development of
infrastructure for resource, tool and data sharing in addition to
projects aimed at advancing global health research, particularly as it
relates to the mission of the participating organizations. The
condition put by the DBT/NIH is that the collaboration must involve
Indian investigator(s) from an Indian institution and at least one
investigator from the US institution. Successful proposals will include
a well-presented justification for the bilateral collaboration, and
detailed experimental approaches that will be completed by each
Dabur Research ties up with Premas
Dabur Research Foundation and Premas Biotech have announced a strategic
global initiative to deliver an end-to-end solution in the area of
preclinical drug discovery and development to their customers.
The alliance combines the services offered by both the organizations to
cover the entire range of solutions in preclinical drug discovery and
development, manufacturing and toxicity profiling. The goal for both
the organizations is to be able to provide their customers, both
nationally and globally, a turn-key solution in their niche space of
operation. The two organizations will be able to provide more
comprehensive solutions to the clients as a single work-flow for the
development of potential vaccines, biosimilars and bio-therapeutics.
CSIR to set up drug research center
In mid-January, the Indian Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs
approved the proposal from the Council of Scientific and Industrial
Research (CSIR) for the revised cost estimate of its project of setting
up a world-class drug research institute in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. The
estimated cost of the project has been increased from $42 mn (
crore) to $70 mn (
322 crore). The project that took off in
is likely to be completed by March 2011.
The state-of-the-art labs of the institute will enhance competitiveness
in all disciplines. The proposed facility would generate a world-class
infrastructure to nurture research and innovation in the area of drug
discovery and development and benefit all sections of the society.
ABLE-AG questions report on Bt cotton
The Agricultural Group (AG) of the Association of Biotechnology
Led Enterprises (ABLE) has questioned the validity of the
recently published research paper in the scientific journal, Current
Science. The article in question was titled, ‘Survival and
reproduction of natural populations of Helicoverpa armigera on Bt
cotton hybrids in Raichur, India’ and has three joint contributors.
Besides Mr MT Ranjith and Mr A Prabhuraj from the University of
Agriculture Science, Raichur, the research also involved Mr YB
Srinivasa of the Institute of Wood Science and Technology, Bangalore.
According to the report, the researchers discovered individuals of
helicoverpa armigera, the most prominent among bollworms in India,
surviving on commercial Bt-cotton hybrids containing single (Cry1Ac)
and double (Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab) genes in experimental plots of the
University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur.
However, while expressing its reservations, ABLE-AG observed that the
study featured in December 2010 issue of the journal did not probe
whether the bollworms survived because they have turned resistant
to the toxin in the GM cotton plants or because the amount of the
toxins in the plants are below a minimum level needed to kill the
The industry association believes that the results of the study
seem to be preliminary in nature, and therefore can neither be used to
generalize nor to extrapolate to all Bt crop technologies. It has
emphasized that study must be repeated rigorously to really come to any
scientific conclusion. However, ABLE-AG agreed that the results
indicated the need for constant monitoring for the efficacy and
durability of the technology and said that it has been equally
emphasized by technology developers.
World’s first human progeria model
Scientists from A*STAR’s
Institute of Medical Biology (IMB) in Singapore and the University of
Hong Kong’s Department of Medicine have produced the world’s first
human cell model of progeria, a disease resulting in severe premature
aging in one in four-to-eight million children worldwide. This model
has allowed them to make new discoveries concerning the mechanism by
which progeria works.
Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome, also known as progeria, is caused
by a mutation in the gene encoding for the protein lamin A, an
important component of the membrane surrounding a cell’s nucleus. The
mutation results in a truncated form of lamin A called progerin, which
in turn causes misshapen cell nuclei and DNA damage.
Children with progeria suffer symptoms of premature aging, including
growth retardation, baldness, and atherosclerosis (hardened arteries),
and all die in their early teens from either heart attack or stroke.
Led by IMB’s Professors Alan Colman and Colin Stewart, the team used a
novel technique of deriving induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from
cells of human progeria patients. This human progeria model allows the
group to trace and analyze the distinctive characteristics of progeria
as it progresses in human cells.
CEL-SCI starts ph III cancer trial
Virginia-based US pharma company CEL-SCI Corporation has commenced its
phase III clinical trial for Multikine, the company’s flagship
immunotherapy. CEL-SCI has now completed all of the manufacturing and
regulatory requirements to begin enrollment of the study. The goal of
this study is to establish Multikine as a first-line standard-of-care
therapy in treating newly diagnosed head and neck cancer patients. The
trial is believed to be the largest head and neck cancer study ever
conducted and is called Immunotherapy Multikine Anti Tumor Treatments
The company expects to enroll approximately 880 patients at about 48
clinical centers in nine countries (US, Canada, Hungary, Poland,
Ukraine, Russia, India, Israel and Taiwan) in the IT-MATTERS trial.
CEL-SCI partners Teva Pharmaceuticals and Orient Europharma will
conduct parts of the phase III study in Israel and Taiwan respectively.
All study sites, including those in Israel and Taiwan, are under the
control of CEL-SCI’s global clinical research organization.
CEL-SCI’s phase III clinical trial is an open-label, randomized,
controlled, multi-center study designed to determine if multikine
administered prior to current standard-of-care used for the treatment
for naive subjects with advanced primary squamous cell carcinoma of the
oral cavity will result in an increased overall rate of survival versus
the subjects treated with standard-of-care only. It will also be the
first trial in which immunotherapy will be administered before any
other traditional means of care are attempted.
Cancer Research, AstraZeneca collaborate to treat cancer
Cancer Research UK’s drug
development office (DDO) has signed a strategic combinations alliance
with AstraZeneca, a global player in pharmaceuticals, to take
combinations of experimental cancer drugs into early phase clinical
This will increase patient access to trials of potential new cancer
treatments that combine molecularly targeted experimental drugs
developed and owned by AstraZeneca. The trials will also test these
combinations alongside conventional chemotherapy, radiotherapy and
other novel agents.
It is hoped that combination therapy using a number of molecularly
targeted drugs may decrease the chance of patients developing
resistance to any individual drug. This is because different types of
drugs attack the faults in cancer cells at different points.
The trials will be managed by the Cancer Research UK/ UK Health
Departments Experimental Cancer Medicine Center (ECMC) Network at
hospitals across the UK with support from Cancer Research UK’s DDO.
AstraZeneca will provide access to its drugs to be trialled through the
alliance as well as additional financial support.
The charity will also hold workshops with the ECMC Network and
AstraZeneca to identify promising combinations of experimental
treatments to trial.
Ms Kate Miller, head of the combinations alliance at Cancer Research
UK’s DDO, said, “We are delighted to be collaborating with AstraZeneca
through the combinations alliance. This initiative will provide a boost
to the UK research community in developing exciting new combination
therapies and will mean that more UK patients will be able to take part
in important clinical trials of potential new treatments.”
Prof Andrew Hughes, vice president, Oncology Clinical Innovative
Medicines, AstraZeneca, said, “As we further understand the
heterogeneity of cancer, we not only need to redefine the disease but
also our solutions to it with the ultimate aim of restoring patients’
lives. The collaboration with Cancer Research UK and the ECMCs provides
a key opportunity to redefining our solutions to cancer through
Cancer Research UK and the ECMC Network have established clear
processes to run early phase combination clinical trials through the
ECMC Network. This includes peer-review of the scientific data and
trial endorsement through Cancer Research UK’s New Agent’s Committee.
Researchers find ways to attack
Scientists at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center,
US, have identified a potential new way of attacking breast cancer stem
cells, the small number of cells in a tumor that fuel its growth.
Researchers found that breast cancer stem cells are regulated by a type
of cell derived from bone marrow, called mesenchymal stem cells. These
cells are drawn from the bone marrow to the cancer and create a ‘niche’
for the cancer stem cells, allowing them to replicate.
“The findings of the research help to find ways to attack breast cancer
stem cells indirectly by blocking these signals from the niche,” said
study author Mr Max S Wicha, distinguished professor of oncology and
director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Breast cancer stem cells were first identified by Mr Wicha and
colleagues at the University of Michigan in 2003. Cancer stem cells are
believed to be resistant to current chemotherapies and radiation
treatment, which researchers say may be the reason for the reappearance
of cancer after treatment.
Little is known about the cancer stem cell niche – a type of
microenvironment that is highly associated with tumor growth and
metastasis. The researchers looked at mesenchymal stem cells, which
arise in bone marrow, and found that breast cancers in mice sent out
signals that attracted mesenchymal stem cells from the bone marrow into
the tumor where these cells interacted and stimulated the growth of
breast cancer stem cells.