Swansea University collaborates with GE Healthcare to characterise and develop anti-cancer therapies

Four years of collaboration between Swansea University and GE Healthcare has advanced the treatment of ovarian cancer by allowing detailed analysis of drugs designed to target the disease.

GE HealthcareFour years of collaboration between Swansea University and GE Healthcare has advanced the treatment of ovarian cancer by allowing detailed analysis of drugs designed to target the disease.

Antibody-drug conjugates, or ADCs, are an important class of highly-potent biopharmaceutical drugs designed as a targeted therapy for the treatment of people with cancer.

Dr Gareth Healey from Swansea University School of Medicine explained: “Characterising the behaviour of antibodies is crucial to understanding their therapeutic potential.  Our research has shown that traditional approaches to developing antibodies for use as ADCs, don’t capture enough information about how an antibody will perform further down the development pipeline. This often leads to extensively researched antibodies failing before reaching the clinical stage which is both time-consuming and cost-ineffective.” 

The collaboration with GE Healthcare began in 2015 with GE Healthcare providing advanced analysis equipment called a BiacoreTM T200, which measures binding interactions between molecules, allowing researchers at Swansea to perform fast and detailed analysis of ADCs.

Dr Healey continued: “With Biacore technology, we were able to fully characterise the binding behaviour of the antibodies and gain understanding of why certain antibodies worked well, whilst others didn’t. 

Besides helping to develop potent antibodies for our current ADCs, this information and the techniques developed will help improve the development of future ADCs to ensure only the most suitable antibodies are selected."

The successful research has led to a new, ERDF-funded collaboration between GE healthcare and Swansea University (as well as four other partners – Porvair, GSK, Bruker and Axis). The Cluster for Epigenomics and ADC therapeutics (CEAT) at Swansea University is seeking to further develop ADCs targeting proteins that are over-expressed on ovarian cancer cells.

In addition to access to Biacore technology, GE Healthcare will provide support on the use of its an IN Cell Analyser. This is an automated high throughput imaging microscopy system that will be used to find out if the selected antibodies can internalise (move into the cell), which is a critical aspect of ADC function. 
 
Tim Fagge, European Business Development Manager from GE Healthcare, said: “The close-knit relationship between GE Healthcare and Swansea University has generated excellent results so far, including peer-reviewed published research. By continuing to work closely with Swansea University as part of the CEAT project, GE Healthcare hopes to play a vital role together with our partners to advance ADCs to clinical phases where patients will directly benefit from the work we’re doing.  Increasing access to innovative next generation therapies such as ADCs has the potential to target oncological diseases more precisely and when combined with chemo and radiotherapy treatments will deliver better outcomes for patients.”

Swansea University’s Prof Deyarina Gonzalez, Principle Investigator on the project, said: “Swansea University has had access to essential equipment and training on two cutting-edge pieces of technology developed by GE Healthcare. The BiacoreTM T200 instrument and the IN Cell analyser have enabled the team here to streamline the development of a class of much-needed ovarian cancer therapeutics, which could make a huge difference to the lives of ovarian cancer sufferers and their families.”

Pictured: CEAT Post-Doctoral Researchers, Emenike Onyido and Zoe Coombes working on GE’s Biacore T200