Invitrogen acquires liver test experts CellzDirect

By Mike Nagle

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pharmacology, Cell biology, Invitrogen

Invitrogen has splashed the cash on a manufacturer of liver cell
products that can be used to test a drug's potential toxicity and
so avoid costly clinical failures.

The Californian life sciences firm will pay $57m (€38.3m) for CellzDirect, currently based in North Carolina. The acquired firm specialises in hepatocyte-based cell products and related services to predict a compounds effects on metabolism in the liver. Traditionally, drugs are tested in an artificial cell line that focuses on cloning and producing a single drug target. However, although this has been successful, there is a growing feeling within the industry that this approach is not enough. ​Using complete, primary cells should more accurately reproduce the body's reaction to a specific drug, and also perhaps reduce the need for animal experiments. The technology is not really mainstream yet and some firms still need convincing they should conduct experiments on primary cells. However, there are some hurdles to overcome to do this. The key question with primary cells is, are the results reproducible? This is a concern as the cells come from donors, and so they are not going to be the same every time, unlike cell lines. The cells must be reset and recalibrated, for example using reference compounds, before test results can be used. However, testing for the potential drug-induced liver injury (DILI) is part of the FDA's 'Critical Path Initiative', which guides drug development. DILI is the most frequent cause of acute liver failure in the US and the biggest reason for new drug application failures, drug withdrawals and restrictions on use. Therefore, the market DILI test is huge. As well as being used by R&D scientists in the pharma and biotech industries, the cells can also be used in biomedical research to study liver diseases and to further understand cellular function. Invitrogen already offers a number of complete cell systems, including primary cells, media, matrices and growth factors and the addition of CellzDirect's products will complement them. "The purchase of CellzDirect follows our strategy of investing in high growth areas of the market, specifically specialty cell systems,"​ said Greg Lucier, Invitrogen's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. According to the firm's head of Cell Systems, Nicolas Barthelemy, Invitrogen were particularly impressed by the way CellzDirect communicated constantly with scientific leaders, the medical community and regulators to drive forward their research. The acquisition is expected to be EPS neutral in fiscal year 2008, becoming accretive in fiscal year 2009. Meanwhile, Invitrogen also announced yesterday that it will report financial results for its fourth quarter and full year 2007 on Tuesday, February 5, 2008.

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