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Quintiles invests £3m in biomarker R&D firm; establishes BPO centre in China

By Gareth MacDonald+

18-Jan-2012

Quintiles has invested £3m ($4.6m) in a new UK-based biomarker R&D company in a continuation of its efforts to build in the field of personalised medicines.

The company – Oxford Cancer Biomarkers (OCB) – is a spin-out of the University of Oxford, UK that uses a proprietary DNA and protein-based assay technology – CancerNav - to identify cancer-relevant biomarkers for use in clinical drug development and treatment selection.

Ben Cons, VP of Quintiles’ corporate development team, told Outsourcing-pharma.com that: “The aim is to produce oncology biomarkers for both developmental drugs and those that are already on the market.”

He explained that under the terms of the investment OCB will develop the biomarkers at its laboratory in Oxford in the UK, which will then be tech transfered to Quintiles’ facility in Edinburgh, Scotland for commercial scale production.

Biomarkers are becoming more important for drug developers Cons said, adding that: “Pharmas are the most obvious customers [as] increasingly regulators want biomarkers to be submitted as part of the approval package.”

Patients also stand to benefit from this type of development because, according to Cons, physicians can use biomarkers to identify the most effective treatments for each individual which, he added, will be welcomed by payors and healthcare providers worldwide.

This aspect of OCB's work fits with Quintiles' efforts in the emerging field of personalised medicines - notably its 2010 agreement with London Genetics and its more recently formed, genomics-focused partnership with Population Genetics Technologies .

Biomarker competition

Cons also told Outsourcing-pharma.com why Quintiles – which joins the University of Oxford and CancerNav inventor Nick La Thangue and cancer research expert David Kerr as stakeholder in OCB – decided to invest in this particular company in what is a highly competitive field.

When we dilligenced this deal we were very impressed by the quality of the technology and OCB’s commitment to taking the project beyond proof of concept” said Cons, who added that – in the biomarker development space – time is of the essence.

He went on to predict that: “In two years we hope two or three biomarkers identified by OCB will have been commercialised,” and forecast that the company will be hitting profitability within five years.

China innovation centre

In other news – Quintiles has established a business process outsourcing (BPO) centre in Dalian, northeast China to service its customer’s data management, biostats, medical writing, pharmacovigilance and post-marketing monitoring needs.

The new unit, which will eventually employ 500 staff and serve markets in China, Japan and South Korea, is modelled after a similar operation the contract research organisation has in Bangalore, India.

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