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Promega to Enter GPCR Space in Deal To Co-Develop Assays With Multispan

Promega has entered the G-protein coupled receptor market by penning a deal with Multispan to co-develop GPCR-screening assays, Promega announced this week.
By combining Multispan’s GPCR cell lines with Promega’s bioluminescent technologies to create optimized GPCR screening protocols, the companies hope to increase the speed and efficiency of GPCR drug screening “from months to days,” according to a Promega official.
In addition, a Multispan official said the company is “definitely hoping to work with more technology and reagent providers” to develop GPCR assay tools.
“Multispan has established a credible position as a GPCR assay expert,” John Watson, Promega’s marketing director for biotech and pharma, told CBA News this week.
Watson said Promega realized that a lot of its products were already being used in the GPCR space, and had to make a decision about how to best enter the market. Its options were either to build up its GPCR content organically or look for a partner.
Promega “did an exhaustive search of the different companies that played in this space, and … Multispan was clearly the best,” Watson said. “But more importantly, [Multispan] has [brought] people from the pharma industry who were experts in GPCR into their organization.”
For its part, Promega has long-standing relationships with the academic research field and the pharmaceutical industry through its luciferase reporter technology, Multispan President and CEO Helena Mancebo told CBA News this week.

“Multispan really acts not just as a supplier, but also as a consultant in the GPCR assay development process.”

“When we were building the company, luciferase technology was not something that people were using very often for primary screens for drug leads,” she said.
The advantage of using the luciferase system for secondary screens, compared to using other reporter technologies, is that researchers can simultaneously look at multiple pathways using the same luciferase assay readout, said Mancebo.
This kind of integration is the basis of Multispan’s collaboration with Promega, and similarly with Molecular Devices last year, said Mancebo. (See CBA News, 9/29/06)
Promega has used Multispan’s cell lines to produce data on the validation of cAMP assays, Watson said. He said the company will present the data at the Sixth Annual Conference for GPCRs in Drug Discovery, which will be held in Berlin in March. 
“What we have seen is really a transition among pharmaceutical companies to focus on drug target-class expertise,” Watson said, who explained that pharmas are under increasing pressure to speed up the drug-development timeline, and off-the shelf assays allow them to identify more hits in less time.
“I think a lot of [drug] companies, where feasible, are looking for out-of-the-box assays,” he said. “The small- to mid-size pharmas are going to want to take something off the shelf, even if they pay a little extra money for it, because they are buying not just the reagent but the expertise that comes with it.”
Mancebo said that, over the long term, the company would like to tackle the difficult problem of therapeutic antibody generation.
“Our technology is easily adaptable to other multi-transmembrane proteins and protein families,” Mancebo said. The company is currently exploring those options and evaluating the market opportunities for them.
Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

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