Singapore -- (ACN Newswire) -- A*STAR's Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI) has entered into an agreement with one of the world's largest pharmaceutical company, Roche, to identify novel drug candidates for the detection and treatment of cancer. The partnership brings together BTI's capabilities in novel antibody discovery and Roche's expertise in developing monoclonal antibody (mAbs) therapeutics, opening up the possibility of improved treatment for cancer, a leading cause of death worldwide.
The collaboration makes use of BTI's discovery of a new mechanism where antibodies can directly target and destroy cancer cells, which has the potential for an entirely new class of cancer treatment. Cancer cells may be distinguished from normal cells by their elevated levels of sugar on the cell surface. The mAbs discovered and generated by BTI are able to recognise these sugar targets and allow more accurate identification of cancer cells as compared to traditional antibodies that only target proteins. mAbs generated by BTI are also unique in having a novel mechanism of action; they cause pores to form on the surface of cancer cells, leading to cell degradation and the eventual death of these diseased cells.
Dr Andre Choo, Principal Scientist at BTI and lead investigator for the project, said, "It is exciting to be able to generate a new class of mAbs that can specifically recognise sugars and lead to rapid death of diseased cells. This opens up new strategies to target and kill cancer cells."
Based on this discovery, scientists from BTI have developed a pipeline of mAbs for major cancers found in Singapore. The partnership with Roche will allow new diagnostic tests and cancer treatments to be developed more quickly and to be brought earlier to patient care. Such treatments could complement and augment existing cancer drugs and result in more effective and safer treatments for cancer patients.
Prof Lam Kong Peng, Executive Director of BTI, said, "This collaboration underscores the effectiveness of BTI's antibody research and allows us to leverage on Roche's expertise to develop novel antibody-based therapeutics. We are confident that this will be the start of a long and fruitful partnership that will not only benefit human health but also the biologics industry."
Dr. Juan-Carlos Lopez, Head of the Roche Pharma Research and Early Development Academic Relations and Collaborations, said: "Accessing external innovation through partnerships with public sector research institutes is crucial for identifying first-in-class or best-in-class opportunities. Bringing together the know-how of BTI and the expertise of Roche increases the chance of success in developing novel antibody-based therapeutics targeting both cancer and cancer stem cells which have the potential to revolutionize how we treat cancer."
 Monoclonal antibodies are made by identical immune cells, allowing them to bind specifically to the same substance that provokes an immune response.
 According to the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer, there were 8.2 million cancer deaths worldwide in 2012.
Please see the full press release at http://bit.ly/1qXiA9S
About the Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI)
Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI) is a member of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Established in 1990 as the Bioprocessing Technology Unit, it was renamed the Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI) in 2003. The research institute's mission is to develop manpower capabilities and establish cutting-edge technologies relevant to the bioprocessing community. Some of the key research areas include expression engineering, animal cell technology, stem cell research, microbial fermentation, downstream purification and analytics. For more information about BTI, please visit http://bti.a-star.edu.sg.
The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is Singapore's lead public sector agency that fosters world-class scientific research and talent to drive economic growth and transform Singapore into a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation driven economy.
In line with its mission-oriented mandate, A*STAR spearheads research and development in fields that are essential to growing Singapore's manufacturing sector and catalysing new growth industries. A*STAR supports these economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry.
A*STAR oversees 18 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research entities, located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis, as well as their vicinity. These two R&D hubs house a bustling and diverse community of local and international research scientists and engineers from A*STAR's research entities as well as a growing number of corporate laboratories. For more information on A*STAR, please visit www.a-star.edu.sg.
Ms Vanessa Loh
Senior Officer, Corporate Communications
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
Tel: +65 6826 6395