The winners of the Biomarker Validation Award - which welcomed applications from companies based in north-west European countries as part of the Codex4SMEs project - are being given the opportunity to have their chosen biomarkers validated by an internationally renowned biobank. Four companies are now going to use this service, which is to be provided by the Integrated Biobank of Luxembourg and is worth approximately EUR 100,000. SkylineDx from the Netherlands works on melanoma and myeloma diagnostics, while the French-based Metabrain Research focuses its R&D on metabolic aging diseases. The winning companies from Germany were Mediagnost Gesellschaft für Forschung und Herstellung von Diagnostika GmbH, which conducts research on infectiology, neurology and endocrinology, and Atriva Therapeutics GmbH, which studies viral infections.
Biomarkers are characteristics that serve as indicators for normal or pathological biological processes. By analysing blood, urine and tissue samples, a wide variety of biomarkers can be identified that provide information about the patient's health. The patient then receives treatment that is tailored to him or her specifically, based on this profile. In cancer treatment, for example, this means only one specific form of chemotherapy is used, one which "matches" the exact genetic variant of the tumour.
Identifying and analysing these biomarkers is therefore extremely important to the success of personalised medical treatment. "It is more important to know what kind of person an illness has than to know what kind of illness a person has." Using molecular-diagnostic methodologies, practitioners have been able to put this age-old Hippocratic maxim into practice. In personalised medicine, a patient's profile is compiled using certain biomarkers. The process of developing the corresponding specific therapy involves carrying out diagnostic tests, also known as companion diagnostics, to ensure the patient receives targeted treatment. However, developing these companion diagnostics is still a very expensive and time-consuming process, which is why they are currently used in only a very small number of therapies. Codex4SMEs (Companion diagnostics expedited for small and medium-sized enterprises) aims to change all that and establish a network of nine partners from seven countries, coordinated by BioRegio STERN Management GmbH, to drive development forward.
"The Codex4SMEs project provides small and medium-sized enterprises with valuable support by granting them exclusive access to cost-intensive services and know-how that they would, in many cases, not be able to finance on their own. The companies also often experience great difficulty acquiring sample materials for their research," explains project manager Dr. Margot Jehle from the German lead partner BioRegio STERN Management GmbH. "Companion diagnostics are no longer just limited to the field of oncology. Our prize-winners who want to have biomarkers validated for infectious diseases and metabolic disorders, for example, are a testament to how broad our network already is."
The project has been given a total budget of EUR 3.13 million as part of the Interreg North-West Europe Programme (INTERREG NWE). "Interreg" is part of the European Union's structural and investment policy, which supports cross-border cooperation between regions and cities. The participants include:
- From Germany: BioRegio STERN Management GmbH
- From Ireland: WestBIC (EU Business and Innovation Centre for the Border, Midland and Western Region of Ireland) and CuRAM (the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway)
- From the United Kingdom: The University of Leicester with Medilink Midlands as a regional sub partner
- From France: Medicen Paris Region
- From the Netherlands: The technological development agency BOM Holding BV (Brabantse Ontwikkelings Maatschappij) and InnovationQuarter
- From Luxembourg: The Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg (IBBL)
- From Austria: Biobank Graz at the Medical University of Graz