Axiogenesis in stem cell collab with ion channel expert Metrion

Induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) specialist Axiogenesis AG has partnered with ion channel CRO Metrion Biosciences to develop human iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes and neurons for drug discovery applications.

Axiogenesis is sharing its newly developed iPS-derived in vitro cells with Metrion for detailed profiling and validation, and Metrion will apply these products in its human cardiac safety ion channel assays and translational phenotypic assays.

By combining the two technologies, Metrion aims to “create new and better cell-based assays for our biotech and pharmaceutical company customers to help them progress safer and more effective new drugs into the clinic,” said the CRO’s Chief Scientific Officer Marc Rogers.

As Rogers perceived, the currently widely used preclinical animal models that could help predict drug performance and safety in humans are both inefficient and expensive, while human iPS-derived cells could act as a critical “stepping stone” to transform simple in vitro screening assays using single mammalian cells to complex human patient clinical trials.

Getting its hands on iPS-derived cardiac and neuronal cells, together with the latest phenotypic assay technologies and platforms, will allow Metrion to develop cutting-edge translational assays that will help screen drug discovery compounds for neurological as well as cardiac side effects, and hence help create or validate new treatments.

The Cambridge, U.K.-based CRO has much experience of building both manual and automated patch clamp assays for a range of ion channel targets associated with human disease, including nAChR, hERG, Nav, Cav, Kv, etc.

This is not the first time the CRO has entered into a collaboration with an iPSC expert. Prior to Axiogenesis, it has also made a similar pact with Axol Bioscience in July. Since its formation in 2015, Metrion has been seeing an increasing demand from major biopharma companies for its cardiotoxicity and neurological safety assays, as well as the specialty ion channel drug discovery technology. In October, it moved to larger laboratories at Cambridge's life sciences hub Granta Park and recruited ion channel research expert Andrew Southan as head of commercial operations.

Both Axiogenesis and Metrion have been actively involved in the FDA’s Comprehensive in vitro Proarrhythmia Assay initiative, of which improved cardiac safety assays using iPS cardiomyocytes are a vital part. In that area, Axiogenesis’ portfolio includes Cor.4U, iPSC-CMs, and its ventricular version used in cardiac safety and HTS applications. In May, the Cologne, Germany-based biotech firm secured an undisclosed amount of investment from Sino-German High-Tech Fund, which provides up to €300 million for German high-tech companies over the next five years.