ASCO Marks Official Launch of Veridex, LLC

New Johnson & Johnson company focused on high-tech cancer diagnostics

Jun 05, 2004, 01:00 ET from Veridex, LLC

    NEW ORLEANS, June 5 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Johnson & Johnson has formed
 a new company, Veridex, LLC, dedicated to earlier detection of cancer, and
 more precise staging, monitoring and selection of appropriate therapies.  The
 new company's focus on cancer diagnostics was outlined today at the annual
 American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting.
     Utilizing state-of-the-art biology, Veridex is developing high-value, in
 vitro diagnostic oncology products that will significantly improve patient
 management and outcomes by providing real-time, predictive medical information
 to physicians.  The company is initially developing two complementary product
 platforms: CellSearch(TM) assays that identify, enumerate and characterize
 circulating tumor cells directly from whole blood; and GeneSearch(TM) assays,
 which employ molecular technology to diagnose, stage and more accurately
 characterize tumors. Veridex announced the commercial launch of CellSearch(TM)
 at ASCO, setting a standard for a new class of diagnostic tools.
     With the growing trend toward more personalized cancer care, these assays
 will play a key role in supplying critical information to aid oncologists in
 providing more individualized treatment.
     According to Mark Myslinski, general manager of Veridex,  "Veridex has the
 opportunity to make a real contribution to patients suffering from cancer by
 improving their diagnosis through a combination of cellular and gene-based
 testing.  This will offer predictive insight into the nature of an
 individual's particular cancer, enabling oncologists to prescribe treatment
 with more fundamental and valuable knowledge of the potential outcome."
     Cellular Diagnostics: CELLSEARCH(TM)
     In 2000, Veridex began a collaboration with Immunicon Corporation, a young
 company developing technologies designed to find rare cells circulating in the
 blood.  This technology, combined with assays from Veridex, makes up the
 CellSearch(TM) System, the first automated platform for detecting and
 enumerating circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in peripheral blood.
     The CellSearch(TM) System has recently been cleared by the FDA for
 prediction of progression-free and overall survival in patients with
 metastatic breast cancer and will be available for clinical use by fall 2004.
     In 2003, Massimo Cristofanilli, M.D., at The University of Texas M. D.
 Anderson Cancer Center, reported that a clinical trial using CellSearch(TM)
 technology showed that at disease recurrence, metastatic breast cancer
 patients with no CTCs had a median survival of more than 24 months, while
 patients with more than 50 cells had a median survival of only 3.8 months.
     "CTCs have long been known in theory to exist in peripheral blood," said
 Robert T. McCormack, Ph.D., general manager, cellular diagnostics, Veridex.
 "But the technology has never before been available to grasp this potential
 consistently.  Now we have the automation and standardization to make a
 practical application.  Using the CellSearch(TM) System, oncologists will now
 be able to detect and enumerate CTCs in the bloodstream, giving them critical
 additional information on which to base their decisions about therapy."
     Molecular Diagnostics: GENESEARCH(TM)
     On the molecular side, Veridex is currently working with Johnson & Johnson
 Pharmaceutical Research & Development, L.L.C. (PRD) in La Jolla, California,
 to develop the company's GeneSearch(TM) technology, which will be able to
 determine such things as the presence and tissue origin of cancer cells, as
 well as disease staging, and holds promise for prognostic and therapy
 selection indications.
     "Cancer is one of many diseases for which there is a tight correlation
 between staging and outcome," said David Atkins, Ph.D., general manager,
 molecular diagnostics.  "The earlier you detect disease, the greater the
 chance of patient survival. The later the disease is staged, the worse the
 outcome is for the patient.  Molecular diagnostics could help catch the
 disease early enough and classify it specifically enough to treat it
 appropriately with a much better outcome."
     Several applications for the GeneSearch(TM) technology are now under
 development, including an intra-operative assay for sentinel lymph node
 testing during breast cancer surgery.  Veridex is also working with PRD to
 pursue the identification of a profile that specifies which patients with
 refractory leukemia are more likely to respond to ZARNESTRA(TM) (tipifarnib),
 under development for the treatment of hematologic malignancies and other
      Contact:  Jill S. Gabbe/Stephanie Hughes Koenig, gabbegroup
                (212) 220-4444
                Mary Richardson, Veridex, LLC
                (908) 704-3652