Deal will exploit Cellzome’s bead-based Episphere technology.

Pfizer’s U.K.-based pain and sensory disorders research unit Neusentis is teaming up with Cellzome to characterize epigenetic factors involved in stem cell differentiation. The research will combine Pfizer’s expertise in stem cell handling and regenerative medicine with Cellzome’s Episphere™ platform. The Neusentis unit incorporates Pfizer’s pre-existing regenerative medicines operation.

Cellzome’s bead-based Episphere platform comprises a suite of quantitative proteomics technologies for the discovery of drug candidates for epigenetic targets. The firm claims the approach can be used to measure the interaction of drugs with epigenetic targets directly in cells and tissues, distinguish between complexes in which epigenetic targets operate, and monitor the effects of a drug on the epigenetic signature in cells and tissues.

The Episphere technology utilizes a bead matrix that captures over 700 different proteins, including epigenetic enzymes, directly from cells in their native form, Cellzome explains. A compound or drug added to the cell or tissue then competes with the Episphere bead matrix for binding of the enzyme targets and their complexes. This competition is quantified with mass spectrometry, and a full target profile is determined from a single tissue sample.

Cellzome is leveraging the platform in house to discover epigenetic and signal transduction (kinase) drug targets in inflammation and cancer. The firm is in addition exploiting its expertise through academic and industry partnerships, with companies including GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Bayer HealthCare, Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis.

In February Cellzome reported achieving the second, payment-triggering milestone in its collaboration with GSK to discover small-molecule drugs against four different epigenetic target classes involved in immuno-inflammatory diseases. Under terms of the agreement, signed in March 2010, Cellzome received an up-front payment of €33 million from GSK, and could earn up to €475 million in development, regulatory, and commercialization milestones. The first milestone in the collaboration was reached in December 2010.

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