Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gene Logic successfully repositions, Ore What?

Gene Logic today announced that Pfizer has filed a patent based on a Gene Logic drug repositioning effort. This would appear to be one of the most significant votes of confidence in such efforts by an outside partner.

Drug repositioning is the idea of finding new therapeutic uses for advanced compounds, particularly compounds which are very advanced but failed due to poor efficacy in the originally targeted disease. A number of companies have sprung up in this field -- the two I am most familiar with are Gene Logic and Genstruct -- and at least some large pharmas have in-house programs.

The reality is that many existing drugs have origins in therapeutic areas which are quite different than those they started in. Perhaps the most notorious case is Viagra, which was muddling along as an anti-hypertensive until an unusual side effect was spotted. Minoxidil similarly began in the anti-hypertensive until its side effect was noted. The route to some psychiatric medications began with anti-tuberculosis agents and antihistamines. I doubt that's a complete list.

Gene Logic is one of the original cohort of genomics companies and has been through many iterations of business plan. If memory serves, they were one of several companies originally built around a differential display technology, a way of obtaining mRNA signatures for diseases which predated microarrays. Gene Logic later became one of the major players in the toxicogenomics space, and as part of that effort built a large in-house Affy-based microarray effort. They built microarray databases for a number of disease areas (I've used their oncology database), built a sizable bioinformatics effort, and even acquired their own CRO.

However, none of that could quite be converted into a stream of gold, so over the last year or so the whole mess has been deconstructed, leaving behind the drug repositioning business which had begun as a unit of Millennium (which is one reason I'm familiar with it). They'll even be changing their name soon, to Ore Pharmaceuticals (presumably Overburden and Slag, while appropriate for the mining theme, did not last long in the naming queue).

While there is certainly historical precedent for repositioning, the question remains whether companies can make money doing it, and whether those companies will simply be the big pharmas or the gaggle of biotechs chasing after the concept. Depending on the company, some mixture of in vivo models, in vitro models and computational methods are used. One way to think of it is doing drug discovery, but with a compound which already has safety data on it. There is also extensive interest in the concept in the academic sector, which is a very good thing -- many drugs which may be repositionable have little or no patent life yet, meaning companies will find it difficult to invest in them with any hope for a return.

Gene Logic / Ore has one repositioned drug which has gone through clinical trials, GL1001 (nee MLN4760). This is a drug originally developed by Millennium as an ACE2 inhibitor. Since I'm among the discoverers of ACE2, I tend to key an eye on this one. Millennium gave it a whirl in obesity, but now Gene Logic has found a signal in inflammatory bowel disease in animal models.

That Pfizer bothered to file a patent is significant, as it triggered a milestone payment -- amount unspecified, but these are usually something interesting. But that is still a long way from starting a new trial -- that will be the real milestone, and whichever drug repositioning firm can claim that will really be crowing -- that is, until somebody actually gets a drug approved this way.


Frederic said...

After the reading, i wanted to give my impressions that Genelogic and Pfizer don't know what to do to get out of their hole. Pfizer was cutting 10000 jobs in january. Genelogic selling the genomic depart. The companies were projecting flat sales for the 3 to 4 next years because they are unable to come up with drug as most of the industries nowadays. More importanntly no one is sending some enthousiastic signals in the industry. Viagra was not only repositioning but a choice to sell the drug on a juicy market more than invest in doing the job done. I do think these companies will loose at the end because they choose to live on past achievements and tax breaks. They bet that new solution will be given by some Smart biotech with some smart PhD for a bag of peanuts and they will continue to pray the govt to stop generics invasion. Unfortunatly, nothing seems to happens this way. The belly issues some noises here. As the music industry, Pfizer and others should invest in science not marketing. Nobody is unavoidable.

So long pal

Anonymous said...

Gene Logic was and is a joke. The risk in drug repositioning is unbelievably high. Yes, they started with a differential display technology which didn't scale well and had isufficeint resoultion. Former CEO Gessler next hit on making a database from Affy chips; always amazed me nobody competed with them. They also tried to build software, very unsuccessfuly. Then the CRO purchase...the clueless management didn't do their due diligence well, and the CRO had heavy debts. Despite what Ocimum claims, I think you will at long last see the Gene Logic name vanish and the jobs head for India. As for Ore...I wouldn't hold my breath.

Mike Reston VA said...

Ore Pharmaceutical is a stategic business extraction of Gene Logic and is entitled in perpetuity to utilize Gene Logic's entire technological platform. The new business entity represents a low cost, efficient permutation of Gene Logic in the drug repositioning area. Looks to me like they have a hot prospect in GL1001 for IBD that is already proven safe and has indications of efficacy leading up to near term FDA required formal tests. Other drugs are expected to be announced in the months soon ahead.
Keep up the good work,