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Oncodesign® to Develop Experimental Cancer Models for sanofi-aventis

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Oncodesign, a specialist in the identification of novel cancer therapies, has signed a two-year service contract with sanofi-aventis under which it is to supply and develop exclusive, experimental models in different types of cancer for the Paris-based pharmaceutical company.

Unlike traditional models, which are derived from cultured cell lines, the models that Oncodesign is developing are based on the use of tumor tissue taken directly from patients, enabling more customized evaluations to be made of new therapies while remaining as close as possible to clinical reality. The financial terms of the contract were not disclosed.

"To our knowledge, this contract is a first for a service company, since it is a long-term collaboration that calls for us to supply experimental models to sanofi-aventis," said the CEO of Oncodesign, Philippe Genne. "We are working to develop our design and validation capability so we can make ready-to-use models available to our customers and partners."

And he added: "This collaboration is a positive result of our participation in the CReMEC [Resource Center for Experimental Cancer Models] program, in which we confirmed the relevance of our approach in tumor models with few successive grafts."

Oncodesign and sanofi-aventis worked together on the CReMEC program, which started in 2005 under the sponsorship of the Medicen Paris Region competition pole and entailed the development and characterization of experimental models of colon cancer. The work involved evaluating new therapies in the most relevant models, the ones that most resemble the clinical reality in histological, molecular and pharmacological terms. The participants in this program may also have access to models of tumors taken from patients who have already undergone treatments and/or have developed resistance to them. It is then possible to look for new treatments or combinations of medicines.

"We trust Oncodesign's know-how and its long-term project management ability," said the Head of Oncology Research at sanofi-aventis, Christoph Lengauer. "The company's specific logistics, which enables usable models to be developed with only a few grafts, was a decisive factor in our choice."

Cancer puts great pressure on healthcare systems, since the disease costs hundreds of billions of dollars a year in western countries. Nevertheless, existing cancer treatments are not very effective, having an average response rate of only about 20 percent. The shift in treatment strategy towards more targeted therapies creates a need for more predictive experimental models to meet the new demands of the pharmaceutical industry.