ChanTest will launch a new ion channel cell line supply business next month in Boston at IBC’s Drug Discovery and Development of Innovative Therapeutics World Congress, a company official told CBA News this week.
“We have not been selling our cell lines to customers until this point because we have not fully validated and optimized them on the different platforms,” ChanTest CEO Arthur Brown said. “Now we have.”
The decision to market cell lines can be traced to a trend that arose because ion channels are becoming more druggable targets, and the technology to screen ion channels has developed rapidly over the last five years to where drug makers can perform the studies on their own, according to an industry expert
The value of the ion channel cell line market in the US has been estimated by some industry experts to be between $5 million and $10 million per year.
The company, based in Cleveland, will continue to offer services on existing and new cell lines and has grouped its fee-for-service ion channels into different therapeutic areas that it calls Channel Panels. The company currently has available a Cardiac Channel Panel, CNS Channel Panel, Pain Channel Panel, and Respiratory Channel Panel. It also groups Channel Panels according to ion channel family, such as the Nav1.x Channel Panel.
ChanTest’s rivals in the ion channel screening service space include Galapagos’ BioFocus DPI service division and Millipore. In the ion channel cell line supply space, ChanTest’s products, which have been characterized for Molecular Devices’ IonWorks Quattro, PatchXpress, and FLIPRTetra, and Sophion Bioscience’s QPatch, will compete against France’s Cerep, and Millipore and MDS Pharma Services, both based in the US.
For its part, ChanTest offers approximately 80 cell lines and screened fewer compounds than its rivals. For example, BioFocus DPI screens more compounds versus ChanTest, but develops fewer ion channel cell lines, often exclusively for individual customers.
Before such electrophysiological platforms and readouts became available, researchers only had binding assays or membrane dye potential assays to use for ion channel screening, and they were “really a step away from the physiology that we now have,” according to an official at a European contract research organization, who requested anonymity because he does not have permission from his employer to discuss the issue.
In terms of ion channel cell line generation, the inducible expression systems that are currently available, such as Invitrogen’s D1, are very good at expressing ion channels in cell lines that have been difficult in the past, the European CRO official said.
ChanTest was founded in 1998, and currently employs around 70 people. To accommodate ChanTest’s new cell line supply business, Brown said that the company plans to hire additional staff and either move to a larger facility or enlarge its existing quarters.
Although the company is currently focused on its ion channel businesses, Brown said it plans to enter new markets in the next several months. He declined to elaborate.