Building on an existing agreement with Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Bionas this week said that it has entered into its first large-scale service contract with the company’s site in Hannover, Germany.
Under the terms of the agreement, Bionas will use its Bionas 2500 high-content analysis instrument to profile and rank at least two compounds that the Solvay group identified in the context of its obesity research program. Financial details were not disclosed.
The agreement is the second between Bionas and Solvay, and represents a relatively new business strategy for Bionas, which previously focused on instrument sales.
Last year, Solvay’s facility in Weesp, the Netherlands, purchased a Bionas 2500 for target validation studies (see CBA News, 11/10/06). While the new agreement is focused on services based on the Bionas 2500, it could also lead to an instrument purchase, the companies said.
“This represents the first large research contract for Bionas,” said Michael Schulze, managing director of Bionas. He said that the company has two business models: developing and selling instruments, and contract research agreements, though the latter is not the firm’s focus.
“I do not know if we will continue to enter into contract research agreements,” he said. “Our primary goal is to develop and sell instruments.”
Michael Firnges, a research pharmacologist at Solvay, said that the company opted for a services agreement in this case rather than an instrument purchase because Solvay is still evaluating the appropriateness of the 2500 system for its purposes.
Assessing Mechanism of Action
“We have two compounds, one compound that we are really interested in, and a backup, so to speak," said Firnges. He said that while he and his team know that these compounds work in the clinic, they do not fully understand their mechanism of action.
In a statement, Solvay said it considers the Bionas 2500 to be a “valuable tool” because it can monitor both acute and chronic effects of drug candidates in different cell types and it can also observe regeneration effects.
Firnges said that he and his team plan to screen other candidates through the collaboration.
“We want to know more about the properties of these compounds in cell systems that are relevant to diabetes type 2, such as muscle cells, lymphocytes, and hepatocytes,” he said.
“If the Bionas 2500 system can provide the information that we seek, there is a clause in our contract with Bionas to use the 2500 system for compound ranking,” said Firnges. Under the terms of the agreement, Bionas will do compound ranking studies for up to ten compounds.
“This represents the first large research contract for Bionas.”
The companies expect the project to be completed within the next several months.
Schulze said the project involves several “less common” cell lines, and Bionas scientists need to determine how best to use them with the 2500 system.
“Once the study has been completed and Solvay gets the final report, we can discuss the findings with Bionas and determine if we will enter into a second contract with them for further compound ranking studies or even purchase a 2500 system of our own,” Firnges said.
Bionas launched the Bionas 2500 in August 2006 to help researchers profile cellular metabolic activity in vitro. The platform consists of a sensor chip that integrates electronics, microfluidics, and semiconductor technology; a detection instrument; and analysis software.
Cells are grown on one of six channels on the chip, and the instrument monitors the metabolic activity of the cells based on changes in acidification, oxygen consumption, adhesion, and confluence in the cellular and extracellular environment. Each channel can accommodate and separately analyze different cell cultures or live tissue samples.
“The main reason that our site in the Netherlands purchased a Bionas system, while we contracted the analysis directly to the company, is that we are two different sites and our work focuses on two different areas,” said Firnges.
Firnges said that work at Solvay’s Netherlands site focuses on neuroscience and work at the German site focuses on cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, including diabetes type 2.
Firnges said his colleagues in the Netherlands did not have time to do the screening project for the Hannover site.