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Glycomics on the map
PINE BROOK, N.J.—Ezose Sciences Inc. has entered into a research agreement with Tokyo-based Kyowa Hakko Kirin Co. Ltd., to collaborate on glycomics studies using Ezose's proprietary GlycanMap technology platform.
Established in 2009 as a U.S. company, Ezose is an affiliate of the diagnostics division of Shionogi & Co. Ltd. in Osaka, Japan.
Kyowa both manufactures and markets pharmaceuticals, focusing on its core business areas of oncology, nephrology and immunology/allergy. As the holding company of the Kyowa Hakko Kirin Group, it also manages the business activities in the biochemicals segment. The company employs about 7,200 in its worldwide operations.
"Shionogi wanted Ezose to grow in the entrepreneurial setting of the U.S. and amid the 'pharm belt' of the east coast," says Ezose Chief Operating Officer Dr. Scott A. Siegel. "Like many U.S. biotechs, Ezose has operated with speed and considerable freedom in decision-making since it brought Japanese and American scientists together at its U.S. site. At the same time, Ezose has benefited from the larger corporate resources of Shionogi and its diagnostics division."
"We look forward to putting our unique glycan-analysis capabilities to the service of the specific research interests of Kyowa Hakko Kirin," adds Dr. Hidehisa Asada, vice president of R&D at Ezose. "As the structure of our collaboration anticipates, the research will seek new discoveries that enable novel therapeutic strategies and sustain the flow of new products to market."
Under terms of the research agreement, Kyowa will fund several glycan-biomarker and other discovery projects, with an option for further research and development. Kyowa will actively participate in the research and help direct the biomarker selection process, but no precise targets or therapeutics areas for the research have been announced nor were other details of the agreement disclosed.
Glycomics is the study of glycans, the sugar chains that during the biochemical process of glycosylation become attached to many proteins expressed by human cells. The particular glycans involved help determine the function of the resulting glycoprotein and its role in health and disease.
"Glycomics lagged behind genomics and proteomics because there wasn't a practical high-throughput method to do glycan analysis," says Siegel. "Identifying and quantifying glycans was a slow and laborious task that was difficult to apply to biomedical research, even though it was understood that glycans had an important role in health and disease. The contribution of Ezose has been to provide a high-throughput method with our GlycanMap technology."
The proprietary Ezose platform combines, in an automated 96-well format, high-throughput glycan enrichment with specialized MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry and custom bioinformatics to both structurally identify and quantitate glycans present in complex biological samples.
"The technology is actually a suite of technologies—glycan enrichment, mass spectrometry, bioinformatics—that have been integrated to accelerate glycan identification and quantification," Siegel states. "The technologies, combined with assay automation, provide the throughput and repeatability needed for biomarker research and bioprocessing application."
Such glycans can serve as novel biomarkers to aid in the development of drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tests, including companion diagnostics. In addition, Ezose is counting on glycomics' potential for uncovering new therapeutic targets and mechanisms and for guiding the development and manufacture of glycosylated biologics and biosimilars.
Ezose offers glycomics capabilities ranging from glycan analytics and biomarker discovery to diagnostic development and commercialization. The company tailors these capabilities to the needs of corporate partners under collaborative R&D and analytical-services agreements.
"The interest in gaining access to this technology is now apparent," says Siegel. "Ezose has embarked upon more than 25 collaborative projects with 15 external partners since the company started operations in 2009."