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Mission Bio Lands $2M NCI SBIR Grant to Advance Minimal Residual Disease Detection

NEW YORK – Mission Bio announced on Thursday that it has received a $2 million Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop a targeted sequencing panel to quantify minimal residual disease in acute myeloid leukemia.

The two-year grant, which was awarded Sept. 12 and is worth $1 million each year, will fund a partnership with researcher Jerald Radich of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

"Residual disease leftover after treatment is a major cause of cancer relapse or even death — but standard detection methods lack the sensitivity and scale to make strides toward solving this challenge," Mission Bio CEO and Founder Charlie Silver said in a statement.

Mission Bio, based in South San Francisco, California, will try to characterize MRD status at the molecular level using its Tapestri Platform for next-generation sequencing library preparation. Tapestri, along with single-cell DNA sequencing, can "effectively detect rare cancer subclones and co-occurring cancer mutations," where traditional methods of detecting MRD can't, the firm said in a statement.

Mission Bio is one of several firms developing technology for MRD in blood cancers. Seattle's Adaptive Biotechnologies has developed clinical NGS-based tests for MRD in acute lymphoblastic leukemia and multiple myeloma from bone marrow samples.

MRD "is more difficult to perform and standardize in AML and has not yet been integrated into trial design," the researchers wrote in their grant abstract.

Earlier this year, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, San Francisco reported that they were able to use Tapestri to identify mutations associated with resistance to treatment in patients with AML.

Mission Bio will use the funding to "improve the Tapestri performance to allow detection of rare subclones present at 0.01 percent and use this platform to build an AML MRD-specific targeted sequencing panel," according to the grant. The study will use blood and bone marrow samples. The researchers will also benchmark their technology against flow cytometry and bulk DNA sequencing.

MRD monitoring with Tapestri "could both broaden our understanding of response and resistance to therapy, and pave the way for new clinical trials of specific therapies targeted at the clones that remain in the MRD state," Radich said in a statement.