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Metrion ion channel CRO teams up with HTS specialist Assay.Works

By Dani Bancroft

01-Mar-2017
Last updated on 01-Mar-2017 at 17:48 GMT2017-03-01T17:48:48Z

Metrion ion channel CRO teams up with HTS specialist Assay.Works

Metrion has partnered with Assay.Works for an exchange of ion channels and high-throughput screening (HTS) services for drug discovery.

Assay.Works GmbH is a German contract research organization (CRO) offering a fee-for-service portfolio, including assay development, cell line engineering and production of cellular reagents, quantitative biology applications and HTS.

Through the agreement with Metrion Biosciences Ltd., clients of Assay.Works will be able to access the Cambridge-based firm’s range of in vitro ion channel assays in the cardiac and neuroscience indication areas.

Metrion has an ion channel library of around 75,000 small molecules, as well as a catalogue of ‘assay ready’ cell lines for use in primary screening and selectivity assays. 

In exchange, Assay.Works will provide Metrion with its HTS expertise and assay validation technologies for drug discovery, including a specialist facility.

It is hoped that the combination of compound libraries with HTS will speed up the identification of novel and viable candidates for drug discovery programmes.

Johannes Knop, COO of Assay.Works, told us, “A lot of our clients are working on ion channels, which are a tricky area to tackle in drug discovery – you need sophisticated instruments.”

So we looked for a partner with deep domain expertise and state-of the-art tech – and Metrion has been around for a while, known for its expertise in the Cardiac area,” he added.

“The Assay.Works team share Metrion’s collaborative approach to client programmes,” said Andrew Southan, Head of Commercial Operations at Metrion.

HTS instrumentation

Assay.Works also provides bioactivity assessments, including 384 well format screening and compound handling facilities.

Knop told us, “One thing to consider with HTS is the assay technology used – some are very fast, easy to automate and minituarise.”

“With more sophisticated technology, the rule of thumb is in the 6-digit range – 100,000-200,000 compounds – you can typically do within a few weeks,” he explained.

Metrion offers electrophysiology-based assay services, CiPA compliant  cardiac safety profiling, and an expanding range  of in vitro ion channel assays.

Comprehensive in vitro Proarrhythmic Assay (CiPA) was a 2013  ThinkTank initiative sponsored by the US FDA to encourage the use  of a wider range of ion channels for cardiac drug development.

“This partnership enables Metrion to offer clients ion channel drug discovery programmes starting at the HTS stage,” Southan added.

German-UK exchange

The Regensburg, Germany-based firm was started out of a HTS center of another analytical services biotech set up in the industry park.

Knop told us, “We inherited the 750 sq meter facility from a biotech company, and we’re still in the same facility, where we’ve been able to secure a lot of the interior infrastructure."

The Assay.Works team is currently five, although the firm is looking to hire further in 2017. “We’re also building on top of that, [although] not planning to rent additional space,” he explained.

Regarding choice of a UK-partner, Knop said Assay.Works was agnostic in its region choice.

Knop added, “Most of our clients come from the US area, rather than EU, but the UK is also a strong area in the drug discovery world.”

The strategy is to make selective investments and then complement capabilities through partnerships.”

(Image: © Assay.Works GmbH)

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