Monday, January 10, 2011

What DOTW Didn't Say about Veridex/MGH

A widely read initial report from the Associated Press on Monday January 3, 2011 mischaracterized the new arrangement between Veridex and Mass General around the development of a third generation system for capturing and analyzing circulating tumor cells. (Here’s one link to that report, since amended by AP.)

The news service originally presented the deal as being around an existing second-generation “herringbone” pattern CTC chip technology, originally described in a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper in October 2010. AP even ran a photo of that chip lifted from the paper.

But the technology of interest to J&J is broader based and earlier in development; hence the five-year time horizon for this collaboration. (See our coverage in the January 7 Deals of the Week for more.) The third-gen system uses antibodies tagged with magnetic beads that can be mixed in with the blood sample.

In earlier versions, antibodies were affixed to a post on the surface of the chip (or on a V-shaped herringbone surface, which creates more active contact at the surface) to capture the tumor cells as the blood sample poured over it. Having antibodies in solution instead will make the system more versatile and greatly simplify chip manufacturing.

It also should improve specificity by allowing a purer collection of the CTCs, with reduced background noise from the capture of normal hematopoietic cells. Both the prior post and herringbone systems are 10-100x more sensitive than the current Veridex CellSearch system, says CTC chip inventor Mehmet Toner of MGH. He expects the third-gen system will be even better.

In the meantime, MGH is continuing development of the herringbone chip, through NIH grants and other sponsorship including support from Stand Up 2 Cancer, a research funding group organized by Hollywood celebrities. Toner and Dan Haber of MGH lead one of SU2C’s five scientific “Dream Teams.”

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