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another 10 people or so in the coming months to carry out its R&D work, Dornbusch says.
The partnerships with Pfizer and UCB represent a shift in strategy at Nodality over the past year or so. The company, which I profiled here in September 2010, was looking at commercializing its own personalized test to help doctors select the right treatments for acute myeloid leukemia. Nodality has since backed away an attempt to commercialize the product on its own, and instead has been searching for a partner with an established sales force to pitch the product. Nodality has continued to amass evidence to support its test for acute myeloid leukemia, and also chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which it plans to release in December at the American Society of Hematology meeting, says Shakti Narayan, the company’s senior director of business development.
“Our company is 90 percent R&D, and what we’re best at is developing tests, a real pipeline of tests and assays for multiple partners,” Dornbusch says. “That’s how we think we can create the most value for patients.”
Nodality has developed what you could call a two-pronged business strategy. It got an important lab certification this summer, which is a basic step it needed to complete before processing patient samples for commercial diagnostic purposes. Once a partner’s sales force has persuaded a doctor to order the test, Nodality hopes to make money by delivering useful information back to the doctor who treats acute myeloid leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and potentially other malignancies. The other main source of cash flow could come from Big Pharma companies like Pfizer, who are looking for information like this to help them improve their success rates in drug development.
Nodality certainly isn’t the only company that thinks it has a hot platform for enabling personalized medicine, but Dornbusch says it doesn’t have to be. The company, which started based on work at Garry Nolan’s lab at Stanford University, uses its technology to look at a wide variety of proteins that carry out basic functions in cells. The technology is supposed to be sensitive enough to look at a biological sample in all its complexity, and detect a single cell with a protein pathway that’s out of whack. Other platforms like high-speed gene sequencers, instruments that look at gene expression, or profiles of RNA in cells, can also be very sensitive and useful to physicians or drug developers, Narayan says. “We’re building our technology and applications to be complementary,” he says.