Next time you travel to Barcelona, Spain, check out Aromics, a biotech that uses genomics and proteomics to develop treatments for cancers like malignant mesothelioma, which can be caused by asbestos.
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Mission: Using Omics technology to treat drug-resistant cancers, and to identify cancer biomarkers that could improve monitoring in clinical trials.
Malignant mesothelioma is a rare and aggressive cancer that can occur as a result of exposure to asbestos. Aromaics is developing drugs that could be an effective alternative to the two main chemotherapy drugs currently used to treat this cancer: pemetrexed and cisplatin.
“The efficacy of these drugs is remarkably low – more than 50% of patients do not respond in the first place – and they all eventually become desensitized in about four to five months,Aromaics CEO Carme Plasencia told me. “When therapy fails, no second-line treatment is approved for these patients.”
aromas’ lead compound is a small molecule drug designed to treat cancer. The treatment works by binding to mRNA molecules and blocking the production of an enzyme that is crucial for cancer cell proliferation. While this enzyme is also targeted by pemetrexed, Aromatics can evade drug resistance by blocking the production of the protein rather than blocking its activity once produced.
Aromaics’ drug development involves the use of so-called ‘omics’ technologies. Including genomics and proteomics, omics technologies generate much more detailed cancer model datasets than traditional tools. For example, the company uses proteomics to measure the effects of its lead drug on the target gene in cancer models. Genomics and proteomics also help identify biomarkers that indicate which patients may benefit most from this drug.
In the future, the company wants to gather even more information from other omics techniques, such as metabolomics, which measure how drugs affect the levels of metabolic molecules.
Founded in 2005 in Barcelona, Spain, Aromics is also developing its leading compound for the treatment of lung cancer and other solid tumors.
What we think:
The use of omics technologies can accelerate drug development in several ways. First, they were able to provide detailed information about the drug’s effect on a patient’s metabolism and protein expression. Second, they could let the developers stratify patients in clinical trials and define their efficacy goals more reliably.
omics techniques, like genomics, are becoming increasingly popular in the biotech industry due to their declining costs and potential to guide personalized medicine. Plasencia believes that Aromics is different from other companies that use omics because it uses these methods to guide every aspect of the drug development process, including defining biomarkers relevant to the drug.
A disadvantage of using omics approaches is that there is a huge amount of data, which requires a lot of cost, time and data storage capacity. “Omics provides a lot of information at a glance and clearly requires hypothesis-driven work, focus on data interpretation and the meaning of its translation,‘ said Plasencia.
In the future, technological advances are likely to help omics approaches gain a firmer foothold in the drug development process. An example of this is the advances in data analysis tools, especially artificial intelligence. “Artificial intelligence is definitely going to help us support the integration, analysis and management of this data to provide physicians with tools to really implement the knowledge in practice,Plasencia concluded.
Images of Shutterstock
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