As part of the company’s investment, Metrion has moved to larger premises in the Riverside Development, Granta Park, from the Babraham Research Campus.
Granta Park houses several other international life science companies, including Gilead, Illumina, Lonza, MedImmune, Pfizer, PPD, UCB Celltech and Vernalis.
According to the company, the new laboratories provide space for additional scientific and commercial staff, laboratory equipment, and dedicated cell culture facilities.
The company has also recruited Dr Andrew Southan, previously the Director of Ion Channel Biology at Charles River Laboratories, as the company’s new head of commercial operations, as well as three additional scientists.
In speaking to Outsourcing-Pharma.com, Dr Southan said the company will continue to grow the two main aspects of its current work: CRO cardiac safety screening services (CiPA panel of human cardiac ion channels), and longer-term FTE-based ion channel drug discovery collaborations.
“Our plans are to significantly build the value of both types of work over the next few years, hence the move to larger premises and investment in new staff and screening equipment,” Southan told us.
Additionally, he said the company will continue to form strategic alliances with other companies “where it gives us additional breadth without significantly increasing our costs.”
Southan provided the example of Metrion’s recent alliance with Axol Bioscience, which he said gives the company access to high quality human stem cell-derived iPS cells.
“Other alliances to give us more breadth are planned in 2017,” he added.
Outsourcing demand and equipment investment
“Most new customers have been smaller small spin-out, biotech and mid-size companies in the UK and EU, as outsourcing of cardiac screening clearly makes sense for them, especially if they are not working in the ion channel field themselves,” Marc Rogers, Metrion’s CSO told us.
However, he added that larger pharma companies have also showed interest in accessing extra resources through outsourcing.
Metrion is also moving into the field of stem cell-derived iPS cells, in particular cardiomyocytes for translational cardiac safety assay testing. Rogers said the company has received a lot of recent interest in its iPS cell profiling and cardiac assay validation services.
However, the company’s specially is high fidelity patch clamp electrophysiology, for which it has received several “gold standard” manual patch rigs and a selection of medium throughput high fidelity automated patch clamp robots from Nanion and Sophion.
“As these are essentially single cell assays we have a dedicated cell culture facility and experienced tissue culture staff to grow and scale-up ion channel cell lines, as well as create new cell lines and optimise cell reagents for our various assays,” explained Rogers.
The company has also invested in new phenotypic platforms, such as multi-electrode arrays (MEA) and impedance platforms, which Rogers said will enable the design, validation and implementation of translational cardiac and neuronal assays using native tissue (e.g. dorsal root ganglion for pain, cortical neurons for CNS programmes) and iPS cells.