Bionext snags Rhenovia team, tech for cell signaling prediction subsidiary

Strasbourg Railway Station

Bionext has picked up cell signaling modeling technology and the R&D team that developed it from Rhenovia Pharma. The arrangement has spawned the creation of TheraScape, a Bionext subsidiary focused on developing a platform capable of predicting what will happen when a drug interacts with a G-protein-coupled receptor (GPCR).

Strasbourg, France-based Bionext has set up the subsidiary to work on assets it acquired from Rhenovia, a CNS-focused biotech that developed simulations of physiological processes. In addition to the assets, Bionext has secured the involvement of four members of Rhenovia’s R&D team. This group will now work under the oversight of a former Rhenovia director to create technology capable of predicting the cell signaling consequences of a drug hitting a GPCR target.

“We take the GPCR target … and with our TheraScape platform we are able to say, ok, this is the effect in the cell, this is the signaling which is involved when the drug hits the GPCR,” Bionext CEO Serge Albou told FierceBiotechIT.

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If TheraScape can deliver such a system, it would enable drug developers to make early predictions about the effect of a particular compound. And, with GPCRs proving to be a prodigious source of targets, the ability to make such predictions is potentially of interest to a sizeable slice of the drug discovery sector. The big, outstanding question is whether the predictions generated by the platform are reliable enough to support decisions in early-stage discovery.

Albou is confident the platform works as billed, but it will be a while before anyone outside of Bionext or TheraScape has a chance to verify his claims. The plan is to funnel approximately $550,000 into development of the platform over the coming year with a view to having a product on the market by the end of 2017.

Between now and then, TheraScape will work to pair Rhenovia’s technology to Bionext’s strengths.

“We are giving what was lacking at Rhenovia for years,” Albou said. “From one side, this is expertise in modeling. And the second part we are bringing is an expertise in IT. I mean Big Data, cloud computing those kind of techs that are needed to run simulations on large scales.”

By providing an injection of capital and capabilities, Albou thinks TheraScape can build a business upon the biosimulation technology. This wasn’t always the plan. Bionext was originally in talks about a different type of arrangement, but external factors prompted a change of plan. “[Rhenovia] had some financial difficulties so we were not able to go further with them,” Albou said.

Having hit upon the idea of setting up the subsidiary, Bionext has developed an appetite for expanding its capabilities. “In the next years, we will be investigating new complementary technologies that we would like to bring inside Bionext group," Albou said.

- read the release (French)

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