Genomic research partnership speeds progress toward personalized cancer medicine

Personalized cancer therapies are on the horizon, thanks to a new genomic cancer research partnership between the Gene Editing Institute of Christiana Care Health System’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute and the biotechnology company NovellusDx.

The Gene Editing Institute has licensed its innovative gene editing technology to Jerusalem-based NovellusDx to improve the efficiency and speed of NovellusDx’s cancer diagnostic screening tools. With the use of advanced gene editing technology, NovellusDx will be able to identify the genetic mechanism responsible for both the onset and progression of many types of cancer and determine the most effective cancer therapy. NovellusDx will pay royalties to Christiana Care for 10 years for the use of its innovative gene editing technology.

Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D.

“This partnership promises to redefine and transform cancer treatment by speeding progress in breakthrough personalized medicine for many forms of cancer,” said Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., the Bank of America endowed medical director of Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute.

“This work has the potential to change the way cancer treatment is carried out,” said Haim Gil-Ad, CEO of NovellusDx. “Once the genetic makeup of a patient is known, we will be able to immediately test and monitor the effect of a patient’s mutations in live cells and determine the appropriate treatment for that patient.”

Today, genomic sequencing plays an ever-increasing role in cancer treatment, but the functional significance of most mutations found in a patient’s DNA is unknown — and so is the effect drugs have on them. NovellusDx will use the gene editing tools to help determine which drug is best for individual patients by recreating the mutations in a test system and then screening a series of known cancer drugs against those mutations to determine their efficacy.

Eric Kmiec, Ph.D., leads researchers at the Gene Editing Institute at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute at Christiana Care Health System.

“The Gene Editing Institute is thrilled to partner with the outstanding scientific team at NovellusDx who are international leaders in the development of personalized medicine and cancer treatment,” said Eric Kmiec, Ph.D., director of the Gene Editing Institute. “We look forward to a long, productive relationship not only in helping to identify effective cancer treatments but also in understanding the mechanism of gene editing in human cells.

“Combining our state-of-the-art gene editing technology with NovellusDx’s expertise will accelerate and improve NovellusDx’s diagnostic testing process, reducing the time it takes to generate the treatment options for the physician and the patient. This will lead to immediate clinical applications and the delivery of precision and personalized cancer therapy at its very best.”

NovellusDx has established a unique approach to identify unknown “driver” gene mutations that can accelerate or facilitate cancer progression. With clinical partners throughout the world, NovellusDx obtains DNA sequence information and creates a personal profile of the genetic mutations from individual patients. Using the licensed gene editing technology from the Gene Editing Institute, NovellusDx will be able to define the impact of each mutation on the activity of signaling pathways of the tumor and suggest the most effective therapy to the patient’s physician.

“The technology we are commercializing from the Gene Editing Institute will allow us to go from next generation sequencing data to real genes with all of the specific patient’s mutations faster and more reliably, allowing us to scale-up and meet our demand while reducing the turnaround time,” said Michael Vidne, chief commercial officer at NovellusDx.

A $900,000 grant from the U.S.-Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation in December 2016 facilitated the Gene Editing Institute-NovellusDx partnership. The BIRD Foundation promotes collaboration between U.S. and Israeli companies in a wide range of technological fields for the purpose of joint product development.

“We are pleased to support this significant collaboration which will not only benefit the parties but will advance personalized medicine, improving the chances of effective cancer treatment,” said Eitan Yudilevich, Ph.D., executive director of the BIRD Foundation.