You may have seen the news yesterday on the Archemix and Merck KGaA deal for the use of the SELEX® technology in the oncology field. Well Cambridge and Germany are a long way from Colorado, or are they…
The origins of the Archemix/Merck deal may be traced back to the first floor of Porter Bioscience, home to the University Colorado, Boulder department of molecular, cell and developmental biology and laboratory of Dr. Larry Gold approaching some twenty years ago. Aptamers (a single-stranded oligonucleotide that assumes a specific sequence-dependent shape and binds to a target protein based on a lock-and-key fit between the two molecules) and the SELEX® process (an evolutionary, in vitro combinatorial chemistry process used to identify aptamers to a target from large pools of diverse oligonucleotides) were both discovered there and formed the basis of NeXagen which later merged with Vestar to become NeXstar Pharmaceuticals and in 1991 NeXstar was acquired in an all stock deal by Gilead.
Along the way the SELEX® technology created the aptamer pegaptanib, an anti-VEGF drug approved as Macugen in 2004 for wet age-related macular degeneration. Macugen was created by Eyetech Pharmaceuticals and where rights and ventures lead it through the halls of Gilead, OSI Pharmaceuticals and Pfizer.
Around 2001 Archemix successfully licensed rights to the intellectual property portfolio of Gilead covering aptamers and the SELEX® process for a wide variety of applications, including therapeutic uses. This portfolio included over 400 issued and pending patents resulting from work carried out at both Gilead and NeXstar in the 1990’s. This comprehensive patent estate has established Archemix as the leading aptamer therapeutics company.
Though Archemix is driving aptamers down the therapeutic field with pipeline products in cardiovascular, oncology and autoimmune disease Boulder-based Somalogic has licensed back from Gilead the diagnostic field of use of aptamers and SELEX® and are planning to transform medical practice through next generation disease screening, diagnosis, therapy selection and patient monitoring tools.