Cambridge Epigenetix said today it has licensed from Boston Children’s Hospital intellectual property related to profiling and altering DNA methylation, technologies that the company said could improve diagnoses and treatment of cancer and other diseases.
Through an exclusive license agreement whose value was not disclosed, Cambridge Epigenetix said it strengthened its position in epigenetic biomarker discovery by licensing numerous epigenetic techniques used in laboratories. The techniques include the specific and unbiased enrichment of 5-methylcytosine (5mC) and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) via enzymatic glucosylation and the use of ten-eleven translocation (TET) enzymes for targeted epigenetic engineering.
The IP is based upon work by the research group of Anjana Rao, Ph.D., a researcher specializing in immunology and cancer epigenetics who was formerly with Boston Children's Hospital and is now with the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology. At the Institute, she is a professor in the Division of Signaling and Gene Expression, and the Pfizer Endowed Chair in Cancer Immunology and Oncology Dr. Rao is also a member of Cambridge Epigenetix’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB).
Dr. Rao’s research group was the first to identify 5hmC as an important biomarker for cancer diagnosis that cannot be measured by traditional epigenetic sequencing methodologies. She also determined that the TET family of enzymes generate 5hmC from 5mC and are key regulators of cellular differentiation that are often mutated in cancer.
“The continued study of 5hmC and other oxidized methylcytosines is essential to enhance our understanding of human biology and health,” Dr. Rao said in a statement. “I am delighted that Cambridge Epigenetix has chosen to license this technology and, through my role on the SAB, I will continue advising them on maximizing its application.”
The IP covered by the license includes the specific and unbiased enrichment of 5mC and 5hmC via enzymatic glucosylation and the use of TETs for targeted epigenetic engineering. The technologies are intended to robustly profile methylation and hydroxymethylation in limited amounts of DNA (<10 ng), a quantity ideal for clinical samples.
By gaining access to the IP, Cambridge Epigenetix said, it can identify epigenetic biomarkers for noninvasive cancer diagnosis and other clinical applications and build on offerings that include its TrueMethyl® oxidative bisulfite sequencing kits for 5mC and 5hmC detection.
“5hmC is fundamentally linked to the expression of genes and to the identity of cells and tissue. This makes it a highly important epigenetic marker with the potential to improve patient outcomes through the early diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancer,” added Cambridge Epigenetix CEO Jason Mellad, Ph.D. “This is a tremendous opportunity for Cambridge Epigenetix, enabling the company to utilize and offer our partners the most advanced epigenetic biomarker discovery technologies available in our key focus areas of oncology and liquid biopsy.”