On a Mission: LabCorp taps single cell-sequencing tech to accelerate drug development

By Melissa Fassbender contact

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/smirkdingo)
(Image: Getty/smirkdingo)

Related tags: LabCorp, Covance, Drug development

LabCorp’s collaboration with Mission Bio will use single cell-sequencing technology to understand the genetics of rare cell populations, which could be key to making clinical trials successful, says CEO.

After investing in the company’s $30m Series B funding round in December 2018, LabCorp has today announced a collaboration with Mission Bio, a high-throughput single-cell DNA analysis and precision genomics company headquartered in San Francisco, CA.

As part of this, LabCorp’s Covance drug development business will be the first global contract research organization (CRO) to offer services on the Mission Bio Tapestri Platform, the only single-cell targeted DNA solution available to identify cancer cell mutation profiles, according to the company.

CEO of Mission Bio Charlie Silver said the work with LabCorp is strategic and allows the company to meet the demand from pharma and scale up “in a much bigger way.”

“The strength of this partnership with LabCorp is to be able to provide an end-to-end solution for pharma so that their exploratory and discovery work and then their clinical trial work can be covered … And as their drug makes it through to market they have the confidence that the clinical testing will also be there to support,” ​Silver told us.

LabCorp also is evaluating the Tapestri Platform for diagnostic applications, though initially key to the partnership is the ability to understand therapy responses and resistance to inform clinical trials

Silver explained, “When you have a drug that’s targeting one mutation, but then there’s a cell or population of cells that has that mutation together with some resistance mutation, then you know not to enroll that patient in your trial, or you might think about a combination therapy to recover the patient.

“That is something that single cell is uniquely able to do, and something that has been big barrier for drug development because very often these patients develop resistance along different genetic pathways that single cell really uniquely is able to detect.”

The other area of importance is in the platforms’ ability to test for minimal residual disease, which Silver said has received a lot of attention from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with the publication of a draft guidance addressing the issue in October 2018.

“Minimal residual disease is the concept that once we’ve treated a patient with a drug there are still cells left that can identify residual disease,”​ Silver explained. “These cells are very rare so they are difficult to detect.”

However, if identified, researchers have an endpoint for their clinical trial that the FDA will support, he said. It also provides an early indication of how to treat the disease, so the patient doesn’t relapse.

Funding and finding a preferred CMO

Funds from the Series B financing were used to support Mission Bio’s global expansion and expansion into pharma. The company has since started operating in Europe and placed its first few sales there at the end of last year.

Mission Bio also is looking ahead to operating in Asia, “to support markets which are very important in oncology across the APAC region,” ​said Silver.

“The other big use of funds is to support all of the interest from clinical trials that have come back our way from drug companies,”​ he added.

In line with the LabCorp collaboration, Mission Bio also today announced an alliance with Argonaut Manufacturing Services, a cGMP contract manufacturing organization (CMO).

With Argonaut as a preferred global CMO, Silver said the company will have the “end-to-end supply chain that gives pharma everything they need to support their clinical trials.”

“There is a growing understanding from the blood cancer space that the genetics of these rare cell populations are the key to making clinical trials successful,”​ he added. “And our platform really started out with the cancer centers running clinical research and now that those results are out, the pharma companies have been looking very closely at that because it really helps guide what their clinical trials are doing and make better use of the clinical trials just based on the economics of it.”

For Silver, this is the “biggest bright spot and the biggest excitement”​ for both collaborations.

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