Pelago: The right dosage of the right medication with a new measuring method

Validation of diagnostic applications of the CETSA method

Pelago: The right dosage of the right medication with a new measuring method

Once fully developed, the patented measuring method, CETSA, can also shorten the time for the development of entirely new drugs.

CETSA measures target engagement – how a drug reaches and binds to its target protein – in other words, how effectively it attacks the disease itself. The way the drug works is different from one individual to another. Michael Dabrowski gives childhood leukaemia as an example:

Exact measurement

“There are more than a dozen different drugs. But today it’s up to the doctors’ experience and judgment to determine which one it will be and at what dosage. We want to develop a diagnostic method in which it is possible to use a blood sample taken in advance to determine the drug and dose that will provide the optimal effect in a particular patient. It would be a big step forward”, says Michael Dabrowski and clarifies:

“The method is general but must be validated for each medicine and diagnosis. The field of therapy in which we have most experience is oncology.”

Swelife has funded a study in which Pelago Bioscience, through measurements in xenografts of human cells in mice, has been able to follow a dose-response curve and thereby proven that the measuring technique works both in solid tissue and in blood.

“It gives us good hopes to be able to measure the same effect in humans. That’s where we are now; we need to conduct a validation study using human samples, probably from biobanks and then in patients.

A lack of competitors

CETSA is unique in that it works the same regardless of whether the measurement takes place in test tubes, in animals or in patients. The method has been developed by Pär Nordlund, professor at Karolinska Institutet, member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences and board member of Pelago Bioscience.

There is no competition in terms of similar measuring methods. The biggest threat, according to Michael Dabrowski, is the “business as usual” mentality of the pharmaceutical industry – not daring to take a chance.

Two paths ahead

Michael Dabrowski sees two paths ahead. One is that Pelago Bio, through external funding, develops a diagnostic kit for commercial clinical use.

The other goes via drug research, as the CETSA method has yet another major potential: by accurately measuring the binding to the target protein, the method can be used to make the long and extremely expensive path from idea to market-ready drug shorter and cheaper. That path is probably easier to finance, he argues:

“Determining, at an early stage, whether a drug candidate has a chance or not would practically revolutionise the market for contract research and could be worth billions of US dollars.”

Updated: 12 June 2017

Text: Jörgen Olsson