Ignyta, Inc. announced that it has acquired Actagene Oncology, Inc., effective May 20, 2013. Actagene was a San Diego based privately held biotechnology company founded in February 2013 that was developing personalized medicines for high unmet need cancer indications, based on cancer genome mining and sequencing.
With the acquisition, Ignyta has evolved its business strategy from a sole focus on molecular diagnostics for autoimmune disease to an integrated “Rx/Dx” focus on drug and biomarker discovery and development for cancer and immunology. Patrick O’Connor, Ph.D., CEO of Actagene Oncology, has joined Ignyta as Chief Scientific Officer and SVP, Head of Research. His contributions to the field of oncology include over 100 publications and patents and over 20 compounds brought into development, including the recently approved anticancer drugs Xalkori (Crizotinib) and Inlyta (Axitinib), discovered at Pfizer where Dr. O’Connor served as the Global Research Therapeutic Area Head for Oncology.
Other additions to Ignyta’s management team include Jean-Michel Vernier, Ph.D., who formerly led chemistry groups at Ardea Biosciences, Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Merck Research Laboratories, to serve as VP, Medicinal Chemistry; Paul Pearson, Ph.D., former Global Head and VP, Pharmacokinetics and Drug Metabolism at Amgen, to head PK, Drug Metabolism & Safety; and Dave Matthews, Ph.D., the scientific founder of Agouron Pharmaceuticals, to head Crystallography at Ignyta. James Bristol, Ph.D., former Worldwide Head of Pfizer Discovery and Former Head of Discovery and Chemistry at Warner-Lambert/Parke Davis, at which site Lipitor was discovered by his Chemistry team, joined Ignyta’s Scientific Advisory Board.
“The Actagene acquisition provides Ignyta with a strategic entry into oncology personalized medicine, an area with high unmet medical need and opportunities to give patients customized treatment options that leverage Ignyta’s biomarker discovery capabilities. Ignyta also gains the addition of Patrick O’Connor and the rest of his world class oncology drug hunter team that has collectively discovered and developed 10 approved drugs representing over $5 billion in 2012 sales,” said Jonathan Lim, M.D., chairman and CEO of Ignyta. “Actagene’s R&D team complements Ignyta’s existing team, platform and capabilities, such as whole genome methylation analysis, next generation sequencing, Methylome™ database, and bioinformatics expertise. This transaction reshapes us into a seamless Rx/Dx company pursuing a significant growth area of patient stratification and targeted drug discovery and development for cancer patients.”
Actagene Oncology applies its proprietary Oncolome™ database and technologies such as synthetic lethal screening, x-ray crystallography and structure-based drug design to develop new chemical entities against genetic targets that are enriched in certain cancer populations.
“I am excited for the Actagene team to join forces with the Ignyta team, several of whom I had the pleasure to previously work with when I was at Halozyme,” said Dr. O’Connor. “Actagene’s Oncolome platform will combine synergistically with Ignyta’s Methylome platform to provide both genetic and epigenetic insights from patient tumor samples to identify and pursue personalized medicines against activated genes in cancer. The driving scientific focus for our new company will be the discovery and development of revolutionary new drugs targeting activated genes driving cancer growth and evasion of the immune system.”
In addition to its new focus on targeted therapeutic discovery for cancer, Ignyta will continue to advance its companion diagnostic initiatives to generate epigenetic signatures that are predictive of treatment response for specific drug mechanisms within both autoimmune disease and cancer.