According to the contract research organization (CRO), the core technology is a human cell line engineered to express an individual drug transport protein designed to test for potential safety concerns during drug development.
“Pfizer intends to use the licensed cell line to test potential drug candidates,” Chris Bode, Ph.D., VP Scientific and Corporate Communications, Absorption Systems, told us.
“Use of the cell line is supported by Absorption Systems technical protocols and proprietary software that tracks cell line performance over time, alerting users when performance drifts and a new batch of cells is needed,” he said, adding “this guarantees consistent performance of the cell line and reproducible results.”
Cell lines in drug development
Cell lines are used early in the drug development process to determine if a compound interacts with one of several liver cell membrane transport proteins, also called drug transporters, Bode explained.
“These proteins mediate the uptake or excretion of many different drugs, nutrients, or metabolic waste products in these cells,” he said.
“Knowing the role these transporters play in the uptake and organ distribution of a potential drug candidate allows drug developers to utilize in vitro testing to predict the likely behavior of the drug when co-administered with other drugs, avoiding the use of animal testing or human trials to ascertain these properties.”
Additionally, the engineered cell lines can be used to determine if a drug will concentrate in tissues containing these transporters.
“In another application, the cell lines are used as tools to investigate unanticipated clinical results, such as patient subpopulations that are unexpectedly sensitive or resistant to a novel therapeutic whose disposition in the body is mediated by a particular transporter,” added Bode. “The expected result is faster, more efficient development of safer, more effective drugs.”
Assessing drug-transporter interactions
Recently, the industry – specifically the FDA and EMA – has been working to better understand the role of drug transporters in drug disposition, according to Bode.
“As the understanding of their importance grew, the next hurdle was identifying new technologies that could be used to assess drug-transporter interactions,” he said.
However, as with any new technology, adaptation and implementation pose challenges for both the technology developers and its potential users.
According to Bode, the model of delivering access to transporter technology through contract services, purchasing pre-seeded plates, and licensing the cell lines for use in-house allows “tremendous flexibility” to clients.
In addition to the cell line licensed by Pfizer, Absorption Systems has also developed similar platforms, including one recently licensed by Biogen.