BioFocus has announced that it has signalled its commitment to enhance its ion channel drug discovery business by recruiting a number of leading specialists in this sector and investing in a 384-well, high throughput electrophysiology system capable of screening up to 100 compounds per day against defined cell lines.
Dr Iain James has been appointed Director of Biology and has taken overall responsibility for expanding the BioFocus ion channel drug discovery and screening services as well as providing input to the on-going development of complementary Soft FocusTM Ion Channel libraries.
Before joining BioFocus, Dr James spent 16 years at Novartis and four years at Ionix Pharmaceuticals, initially as Director of Biology before becoming Director of Drug Discovery.
Dr James brings a considerable depth of scientific and managerial experience to the BioFocus ion channel team.
The appointment of Dr. James is testament to the continued determination at BioFocus to strengthen its capabilities in ion channel drug discovery, which has already been extensive over the past 18 months.
During this period, the BioFocus ion channel team has been augmented through the appointment of several senior staff with significant hands-on ion channel and drug discovery experience acquired both in Biotech and Big Pharma.
To support its capabilities in discovering drugs that act at ion channels, BioFocus has recently commissioned an IonWorks Quattro™ high-throughput electrophysiology screening system.
Based on Molecular Devices' Population PatchPlateTM technology, and working with 384-well planar arrays, the Quattro is designed to allow rapid functional assessment of active molecules in critical electrophysiology assays prior to being scheduled for in-depth evaluation, using conventional manual, patch-clamping technology.
In addition to its automated high throughput system, BioFocus has also invested extensively in ion flux and fluorescence-based systems for primary screening of large assemblies of molecules.
Chris Newton, Chief Scientific Officer at BioFocus said "Although 5% of drugs are known to act through binding to ion channels, the technical difficulties relating to assessing the actions of molecules on ion channels, combined with the lack of an extensive knowledge base about how ion channels work, have prevented exploitation of this genomic class of target.”
“This strategic investment in both senior staff and advanced screening equipment at BioFocus underlines our commitment to offering an unrivalled ion channel drug-discovery service, using either clients' own compounds or those developed at BioFocus by Helical Domain Recognition Analysis (HDRA ™,) as part of our own SoftFocusTM libraries.”
“Over the last 12 months, we have witnessed a marked upsurge of interest in our ion channel libraries from big pharma - so much so that they are now our one of our fastest selling compound libraries."
"With its impressive workflow, the IonWorks Quattro allows us to increase our electrophysiology screening capability by two orders of magnitude and offers our clients a true fast track into the promising ion channel field".