Israeli startup Hide and Seq can use a cancer patient’s genes to predict what treatment will be effective.

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Founded only a few months ago, Israeli startup Hide and Seq, which deals in personalized cancer treatment, has signed an agreement with AbbVie and Sheba Medical Center (Tel Hashomer). The three entities will utilize Hide and Seq’s expertise in finding patients that will have the best responses to the new drug treatments being developed by AbbVie.

Hide and Seq will present its activity at the IATI Biomed 2016 conference on May 24-26 in Tel Aviv. The company will participate in the part of the conference that involves personalized medicine, and in a startup competition taking place as part of the conference.

Hide and Seq cofounder and CTO Dr. Alona Zilberberg explains her company’s business like this: “We detected a genomic difference between various patients with ovarian cancer, which shows which patients it is worthwhile treating with a drug named Paclitaxel, which will not help other patients. Today, most patients receive this chemotherapeutic treatment, which lengthens life expectancy in some cases, but is ineffective in other cases, and causes unnecessary side effects and costs, when the time could be used for other treatments.”

Zilberberg explains that the idea for the project was first suggested by cofounder and CEO Dr. Rotem Ben-Hamo, a PhD student in a systems biotechnology laboratory at Bar Ilan University that combines calculating biotechnology, i.e. treatment with biological information as it appears on a computer (such as simulations of molecular structures or DNA sequences) and “wet” biology, i.e. work with actual tissues and molecules. Ben-Hamo used a database called the Cancer Genome Atlas, which presents information about the genetics of cancer patients with their clinical information which treatments they received, and what worked. Through a sophisticated analysis of the information, Ben-Hamo succeeded in deriving the connection between the genetic difference and the difference in the effect of the treatment, while neutralizing other differences between patients. According to her findings, 50% of the patients bear the gene that causes them to have a good reaction to the treatment, while the treatment is useless for the other 50%. “We all have this gene from birth, but half of us have a specific type of the gene, while the other half has the other type. That doesn’t mean anything about our risk of getting ovarian cancer, but if we do get it, we respond to the treatment,” Zilberberg explains.

According to Zilberberg, this genetic difference can determine how various people with other diseases will respond to Paclitaxel, which is currently sometimes used to treat breast cancer and lung cancer, and its effectiveness in other areas is also being examined. “We began with ovarian cancer because in this case, we had a very large database of tests,” she says, adding that the same method that helped to discover the current difference in the effectiveness of Paclitaxel when used to treat breast cancer can also enable the company to detect other differences between people in the way they respond to drugs.

According to the company, deciding which drug to use for treatment of patients through a better method than trial and error will save tens of thousands of dollars per patients, and there are two million patients annually, one million of whom can be saved the initial treatment. The cost of the product is likely to be around $1,000 per test.

The product has only been used for patient samples, and has not yet undergone clinical trials, but as a diagnostic product, this information is sufficient to make it possible to begin marketing it, although information is expected to be gathered from the field at a later stage about how using the test actually improves treatment results. The company has not yet decided how and when it will go about registering for marketing in the US, and whether it will market the product through a local laboratory, found its own laboratory, or market the test as a shelf product for all laboratories. Only if it chooses the shelf product option will it need approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The company is currently striving to raise money. The agreement signed with Abbvie is not related to Paclitaxel; it involves a new cancer drug being developed by Abbvie, which wishes to examine whether the same genetic difference found by the company can predict the difference in patients’ responses to its new antibody.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes-online.com – on May 22, 2016

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