BioWorld International Correspondent

PARIS The French functional proteomics company Hybrigenics entered into a research collaboration with the Israeli company Mindsense Biosystems Ltd. to identify novel biomarkers and drug targets for the diagnosis and possible treatment of depression.

Paris-based Hybrigenics will use its high-throughput functional proteomics platform to identify proteins that interact with a selection of Rehovot-based Mindsense’s proprietary targets in the area of mental disorders. Interacting proteins will be further validated as therapeutic targets in a variety of cell-based phenotypic assays.

More specifically, Hybrigenics will screen a number of Mindsense’s proteins associated with depression against several highly complex polypeptide libraries. The resulting data will enable both companies to gain a better understanding of the underlying biological pathways of these proteins and the role they play in mental disorders. The companies, which will share the costs of the research, say they hope their collaboration will make a significant contribution to describing the complex molecular interactions that are characteristic of depression and thus to understanding and treating the disease.

Hybrigenics seeks to elucidate protein functions as part of specific biological complexes or as networks of interacting proteins (pathways) by identifying and validating drug targets and therapeutic compounds through protein interaction mapping and generic and disease-specific cellular assays in human cells. It expects this collaboration to enrich its collection of drug target identification and validation-related pathways.

Hybrigenics CEO Donny Strosberg told BioWorld International that this is its third collaboration in the area of central nervous system diseases (its primary focus having initially been on infectious diseases, HIV, cancer and obesity) and stressed that it is “the first in which we get to keep all the rights to therapeutic applications of the targets.” Hybrigenics already is engaged in a joint neuroscience research program with the Paris-based pharmaceutical company Merck Sharpe & Dohme Ltd., and last July entered into a collaboration with Oxford Glycosciences, of Abingdon, UK, for the screening of proteins associated with cancer and neurological disorders.

Strosberg said the agreement with Mindsense was for a period of 12 months, when an initial group of proteins will be retained, and could be extended if others are identified. Hybrigenics will be free to exploit the results as it sees fit, and Strosberg stressed that the company’s ultimate goal is to discover and validate new therapeutic targets, both for in-house drug discovery and development and for licensing out to third parties.

For Mindsense, which will retain full rights to diagnostic applications of validated proteins, this collaboration is expected to generate new information that will broaden its portfolio of proprietary, potential blood-based biomarkers for depression. The chairman of its scientific advisory board, Alan F. Schatzberg, chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, said, “The future of diagnostics of complex disorders such as depression lies in multimarker detection. Mindsense’s repertoire of potential biomarkers, coupled with Hybrigenics’ screening technologies, could quickly facilitate the development of a number of useful diagnostic tests for depression.”