Metrion teams up with Assay.Works in ion channel drug discovery services

Ion channel CRO Metrion teams up with HTS expert and CRO Assay.Works to develop new drug discovery services. (Metrion)

Ion channel specialist Metrion Biosciences and assay development and high-throughput screening expert Assay.Works have come together to develop new ion channel services for drug discovery.

The U.K.-based Metrion will gain access to Assay.Works’ HTS and assay validation technologies, including 384 screening and compound handling facilities, 74,000 small molecules and a stock of cell lines for use in primary screening and selectivity assays, according to a press release (PDF).

In exchange, Metrion will provide Germany-based Assay.Works and its clients in vitro knowledge and services regarding ion channel, including automated electrophysiology, CiPA-compliant human cardiac ion channel screening, and a number of phenotypic assays for translation of cardiac and neuroscience data.

The idea behind the collaboration is that by combining the two CROs’ expertise—HTS and compound libraries—can help better identify early candidates for drug discovery.

According to Assay.Works’ own introduction, it was formed on the basis of the HTS center of another biotech which provided similar services. The company, with the addition of that predecessor, has carried out more than 250 screenings in the combined history of 16 years, and has generated over 100 million data sets.

The current FDA regulations require in vitro hERG screening of all new compounds plus a thorough QT clinical study, but that process is deemed expensive and time-consuming, and has the potential to overlook some potentially useful chemicals.

Therefore, the U.S. FDA, together with the biopharma industry, rolled out the Comprehensive in vitro Proarrhythmia (CiPA) initiative in 2013 to form a new paradigm for cardiac drug development, which utilizes ion channel targets.

Last November, Metrion entered into a collaboration with Axiogenesis to develop human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes and neurons for drug discovery, also a vital part of the CiPA initiative. Metrion gains access to Axiogenesis’ iPS-derived in vitro cells, and thus further building on its capability of developing cutting-edge translational assays that will help screen drug discovery compounds for neurological as well as cardiac side effects.