Servier partners A*STAR to develop immunity-modulating drugs to combat cancer and autoimmune diseases

19/09/2013

1. Servier, France’s largest privately-owned pharmaceutical company, announced today that it has inked three Research Collaboration Agreements (RCAs) with A*STAR’s Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN). The collaboration projects aim to discover and develop drugs that harness the immune system to tackle diseases such as cancer and autoimmune disorders.

2. By developing innovative therapeutic strategies that can accurately modulate the body’s own defense mechanism, Servier and SIgN hope to develop immunotherapeutic drugs that are more targeted, and hence less likely to cause side effects.

3. Acting Executive Director of SIgN, Associate Professor Laurent Rénia said, “We are very pleased that Servier is expanding their collaboration with us. This is an excellent example of how private companies and public research institutions can work hand-in-hand to translate medical science breakthroughs into innovative medicines to meet healthcare needs. I am confident that the convergence of our strengths - SIgN’s strong expertise in translational human immunology and Servier’s in-depth knowledge in drug discovery and development – will push the frontiers of immunotherapy for complex and difficult-to-treat diseases.”

4. Jean-Philippe Seta, MD, CEO of Servier added “The expansion of this partnership is expressing our goal to collaborate closely with leading scientists worldwide, to discover and develop innovative medicines, particularly in the field of cancer. We believe that the high quality of the research done at the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) is a unique opportunity to achieve this goal.”

About the SIgN-Servier partnership

5. This is not the first time that Servier is collaborating with SIgN. Servier first worked with SIgN in 2011 on anti-cancer drugs that can suppress tumour-initiating cells (TICs), which are also commonly known as “cancer stem cells”1. To date, several fully human monoclonal antibodies directed at restricting the growth of TICs have been generated for further development into therapeutic antibodies.

6. The success of the first collaborative project prompted Servier to expand and strengthen this partnership with SIgN for the latest three RCAs. Two of these projects will be helmed by Professor Paola Castagnoli, the Scientific Director of SIgN, whose expertise in dendritic cell biology is pivotal in the clinical development of new therapeutic candidates that Servier is pursuing. These drugs will be applied in the field of cancer therapy as well as organ transplantation, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

7. The third project will focus on identifying genetic dispositions in Asian patients to drug-induced side-effects, such as allergic reactions, which are frequently caused by interactions with a special class of immune genes called human leukocyte antigens (HLAs). This study will be led by Associate Professor Ren Ee Chee, Principal Investigator at SIgN, who is an expert in Asian HLA gene repertoire.

AGENCY FOR SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND RESEARCH (A*STAR) & SERVIER

For media queries and clarifications, please contact:
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
Sarah Chang, Ph.D.
Corporate Communications
Tel: (65) 6826 6442
Email: chang_kai_chen@a-star.edu.sg

Servier
Servier Communication Department
Tel: +33 1 5572 6037
Email: presse@servier.fr

About Dendritic Cells
Dendritic cells (DCs) are a specialised group of white blood cells that serve as key regulators of all immune responses against infectious agents or cellular abnormalities by presenting tiny fragments from micro-organisms, vaccines or tumours to the T cells. T cells are immune cells that circulate around our bodies to scan for cellular abnormalities and infections. Different types of T cells specialise in a distinctive protective response, all of which are crucial for our body to eliminate cancer, harmful bacteria or fungi, and infected cells.
However, only a small subset of DCs is capable of presenting externally derived antigens to activate the correct distinctive protective response through a process termed “cross-presentation”. The identities of the various DC subsets in human tissue as well as the mechanisms in which they could be activated are not completely understood. SIgN scientists have identified several of the human cross-presenting DC subsets which that has led to better exploitation of targeted immunotherapy and vaccine strategies for treatment of cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
About Therapeutic Monoclonal Antibodies
As a therapeutic agent, monoclonal antibodies are more potent and effective than conventional drugs because they are highly selective and bind specifically to the disease target. Drugs based on fully human monoclonal antibodies, rather than those derived from mouse, reduce side effects in humans.
SIgN has developed deep capabilities in state-of-the-art technology platforms such as the fully human Monoclonal platform and Immuno-monitoring platform that can catalyse the process of drug discovery and development.
About the Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN)
The Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), officially inaugurated on 15 January 2008, is a research consortium under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)’s Biomedical Research Council. The mandate of SIgN is to advance human immunology research and participate in international efforts to combat major health problems. Since its launch, SIgN has grown rapidly and currently includes 250 scientists from 26 different countries around the world working under 28 renowned principal investigators. At SIgN, researchers investigate immunity during infection and various inflammatory conditions including cancer and are supported by cutting edge technological research platforms and core services.
Through this, SIgN aims to build a strong platform in basic human immunology research for better translation of research findings into clinical applications. SIgN also sets out to establish productive links with local and international institutions, and encourage the exchange of ideas and expertise between academic, industrial and clinical partners and thus contribute to a vibrant research environment in Singapore.
For more information about SIgN, please visit www.sign.a-star.edu.sg.

About the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
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 20 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.
Please visit www.a-star.edu.sg

About Servier
Servier is a privately-run French research-based pharmaceutical company. Current therapeutic domains for Servier medicines are cardiovascular, metabolic, neurological, psychiatric and bone and joint diseases, as well as oncology. Servier is established in 140 countries worldwide with over 20,000 employees and a 2012 turnover of €3.9 billion. Servier invests 25% of its turnover in R&D.
More information is available at www.servier.com

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