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QIMR Berghofer Licenses Esophageal Cancer Blood Biomarkers to Proteomics International

NEW YORK – Australian medical research institute QIMR Berghofer said Tuesday that it has signed an exclusive worldwide license agreement with Proteomics International Laboratories (PIL) for esophageal cancer blood biomarkers discovered by QIMR scientists.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Under the agreement, Perth, Australia-based PIL has the right to use the markers to develop and commercialize a blood-based early detection test for esophageal cancer. The company said it plans to target patients with Barrett's esophagus, a noncancerous condition that increases a person's risk of developing esophageal cancer.

"We envisaged that blood test-based screening will allow better use of health resources by identifying the right patients for endoscopy while reducing unnecessary procedures," Michelle Hill, head of QIMR Berghofer's Precision and Systems Biomedicine Laboratory, said in a statement. "Most importantly, once found, the pre-cancerous cells and early-stage esophageal adenocarcinoma can be effectively treated, thereby improving survival from this deadly cancer."

Hill's team led the discovery of the markers, which were validated this year in a study of 300 patients.

"At-risk patients are currently screened with invasive and costly endoscopy procedures. Instead, this panel of biomarkers — or protein 'fingerprints' in the blood — can detect the early stages of esophageal adenocarcinoma, which we hope to do using a simple blood test," Richard Lipscombe, managing director of PIL, said in a statement.

PIL said it is planning to do additional studies to validate the performance of the markers, which it expects will take around six months.

The license agreement follows a memorandum of understanding signed by the two partners in 2020 to improve detection of esophageal cancer.