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Attacking autoimmune disease
August 2013
by Jeffrey Bouley  |  Email the author
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SEATTLE—Bringing together their respective autoimmune expertise, Adaptive Biotechnologies and Biogen Idec recently signed an agreement for the study of immunological biomarkers in difficult-to-treat autoimmune diseases, under which Adaptive's proprietary immune profiling assay, immunoSEQ, will be used to characterize patient samples with autoimmune disorders with high unmet medical needs. The immunoSEQ assay uses high-throughput, next-generation sequencing to characterize the repertoire of T and B cell receptors, which can be useful to monitor the immune status of patients with autoimmune diseases and to assess the impact of treatments that impact or alter the immune system.
 
 
It is the T cell area, though, in which Adaptive seems to be more focused, as the company touts that its technology provides researchers "the first in-depth analysis of the T-cell receptor repertoire, a specific and important part of the immune system," and allows for the identification of the exact makeup of approximately 10 million to 15 million unique T-cell receptors in one individual, compared to previous techniques that could catalog only about 30,000.  
 
According to Chad Robins, CEO and founder of Adaptive Biotechnologies, the company is concentrating its efforts on specific, prevalent autoimmune diseases under the belief that a drug therapy targeting the specific T-cell receptor combinations associated with autoimmune disease could pre-emptively block the relevant T-cell receptors from mistakenly reacting to their own body tissues, thus preventing or ameliorating the disease.
 
"We are delighted to collaborate with Biogen Idec to help further characterize the immune status of patients with autoimmune diseases who are often quite heterogeneous and therefore, difficult to treat without a more personalized approach," said Robins in the news release about the deal. "Partnering with Biogen Idec fits squarely with Adaptive's dual commitment to a deeper understanding of complex diseases as well as to finding better means to treat them."
 
Fueled by discoveries from immunoSEQ since its launch in 2010, Adaptive also is currently developing a pipeline of clinical assays that are specific to cancer diagnosis and prognosis. All of Adaptive Biotechnologies' assays, the company notes, are coupled with a cloud-computing infrastructure that "simplifies the interpretation of massive quantities of data in a user-friendly interface."  
 
Although neither company is talking about which autoimmune diseases are of interest in this particular deal, Biogen Idec's pipeline has several investigational therapeutics in the works for autoimmune diseases that are in Phase I, II or III clinical trials—at least six compounds for lupus erythematosus, lupus nephritis and also multiple sclerosis, which is suspected by many researchers of having an autoimmune component.  
 
In other recent Adaptive news, the company in May entered into a collaboration agreement with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. for the discovery of immunological biomarkers in oncology. Under that collaboration, Adaptive will use immunoSEQ to identify potential biomarkers that may provide insight into drug response for various cancers as a possible tool to identify patient populations who might be more likely to respond to targeted therapies based on their immune status.
 
Code: E081328

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