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Pfizer, Biotech to Partner on Autoimmune Disorders

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The global pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. and biotechnology company Nodality Inc. in South San Francisco, California agreed to a partnership that provides Pfizer with access to Nodality’s cell signaling analysis technology to streamline development of treatments for autoimmune diseases, beginning with lupus. The financial amount of the multi-year year was not disclosed.

Nodality has created a technology it calls single cell network profiling that performs pathway analysis of signaling networks regulating key cellular functions such as growth, proliferation, and survival. The combination of a distinct protein in response to a specific modulator is called a node, which activates when the cell signaling network responds to that specific modulator.

Single cell network profiling, says Nodality, analyzes the functional activity of cells at the single cell level, which can reveal alterations in cellular networks that cannot be detected in resting cells or in larger populations of cells. The company licensed the original intellectual property based on research conducted at Stanford University.

These alterations in cellular networks are known to play critical roles in the causes of cancer and autoimmune diseases. Under the agreement, Nodality will analyze the biological bases underpinning Pfizer compounds for autoimmune disorders, with an initial focus on lupus. Pfizer will have the option of to expand the partnership to include development of companion diagnostics. The terms of the agreement include an upfront payment, R&D funding, and success-based milestone payments.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease, where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, and can lead to chronic inflammation affecting the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, systemic lupus erythematosus, the most serious form of the disease, affects from 322,000 to more than 1 million people in the U.S. About nine out of 10 people who have lupus are women.

In February 2012, Nodality agreed to a similar partnership with UCB Pharma in Brussels, Belgium. That deal focused on immunology disorders, with an option to expand into companion diagnostics.

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