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Certara Acquires Simcyp to Create Integrated Drug Discovery and Development Software Platform


By Uduak Grace Thomas

Certara has acquired UK-based modeling and simulation software company Simcyp for $32 million in a bid to offer pharmaceutical customers a single informatics platform for drug discovery through preclinical and clinical development and clinical trials.

Certara, the parent company of Tripos and Pharsight, will add Simcyp as a third division. Simcyp will continue operations under its current business model and will maintain its focus on population-based, physiologically based pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic modeling and simulation services and software, Certara said.

Steve Toon, Simcyp's executive director, told BioInform that his firm will retain all 50 employees, including its management team, though some managers will take on new roles under Certara's leadership. Simcyp will also retain its current location in Sheffield, UK.

Toon will be responsible for Simcyp's consultancy services as well as for providing technical support to Certara sales groups, he said.

Geoff Tucker, Simcyp co-founder and its chairman, will help integrate Certara's three companies; Amin Rostami, co-founder and director of scientific research and development, will maintain the same role; and John Evans, managing director, will take on a general management role with primary responsibility for Simcyp and some responsibility for Certara business groups in Europe, Toon said

In a statement, Jim Hopkins, Certara's president and CEO, said that Simcyp's capabilities should augment the company's existing software and services in order to provide "significant drug development advantages to our mutual and prospective clients."

Simcyp's preclinical simulation technologies, which include prediction of drug-drug interactions, bridge a gap in Certara's current portfolio, Dan Weiner, Certara's lead scientist, told BioInform.

While the Tripos products focus on molecular modeling for drug discovery and Pharsight's tools address data management for late clinical development and clinical trials, the company was seeking something in the preclinical development market in order to link those two worlds.

"Tripos can do the molecular modeling, Simcyp can predict in vivo outcomes from laboratory data, and then Pharsight has the statistical tools to ... analyze in vivo data that you get from clinical trials," Weiner said.

Tripos offers D360, which is used to retrieve and analyze scientific data; Sybyl-X, which is used for molecular modeling; Muse, which helps chemists identify and optimize lead candidates; Benchware 3D Explorer, which provides 3-D molecular visualization capabilities; and the Tripos Chemistry Extensions package, which includes tools for chemical structure manipulation, visualization, and other features.

Pharsight's suite, meantime, includes Phoenix WinNonlin, which analyzes data from PK and PK/PD studies; Phoenix NLME, which provides data processing and modeling tools for population PK/PD analysis; Pharsight Knowledgebase Server, which provides storage, access, and change tracking for data, analyses, and related files; PKS Reporter, which generates standardized clinical reports for internal use or regulatory submission; and Pharsight Trial Simulator, which helps users calculate the risks and preview expected results before committing to further develop a drug.

Weiner noted that "more and more companies are moving [away] from PK/PD modeling," where Pharsight's tools are used, toward PBPK/PD modeling, where "Simcyp is the best in that space."

Toon told BioInform that the goal is to "come up with a unified data management and data transfer platform" on which products from all three companies will sit, but noted that the company is still discussing the capabilities of the final integrated platform as well as a development timeline.

As an example, Certara's Weiner said the company could use its Tripos D360 software to provide access to data sources that are needed as inputs to run simulations in SimCyp and then incorporate modeling tools from all three companies to analyze the data.

He also said the company hopes to have completed some of its integration plans within a year.

In the meantime, Simcyp will take advantage of the broader drug development expertise available within Certara in order to give its clients access to an "expanded and integrated range of products and services," John Evans, Simcyp's managing director, said in a statement.

This expanded reach should also give Simcyp a "competitive edge" in the marketplace, where it competes with companies like Simulations Plus, Toon said.

Like Simcyp, Simulations Plus sells simulation and modeling software and provides consulting services for pharmaceutical R&D. Last November, the company divested its communications systems subsidiary intending to focus on expanding its footprint in pharmaceutical markets (BI 11/18/2011).

Earlier on, it had tried to buy the assets of biosimulation software developer, Entelos after that firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last July (BI 9/23/2011). Entelos eventually sold its assets to a secured lender (BI 9/30/2011).

Certara combines "three players that have historically served individual parts of the entire drug development process ... Tripos in terms of discovery and molecular modeling, Simcyp at the preclinical/clinical interface, and then Pharsight in later clinical development," Toon said. "The fact that we have been brought together with a view of harmonizing data flow is going to give [Simcyp] a big advantage."

Furthermore, being part of the Certara group means that "we are a company of far greater size" which "does give us far greater reach within the entire drug development spectrum," he added.

Simcyp markets Simcyp Simulator, which is used to model pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics activities in virtual human populations as well as in virtual laboratory animals — specifically rat, dog, and mouse. It also includes a separate module — Simcyp Paediatric Simulator — for modeling pharmacokinetic behavior in infants, neonates, and children.

Simcyp Simulator draws information from databases containing human physiological, genetic, and epidemiological information. It predicts in vivo outcomes — including variability in individuals — by combining in vitro clinical laboratory data with information from its source repositories.

Pharma companies can use the software to test the effects of potential drug compounds in simulated populations such as in infants and children, Toon said.

For example, a company could use the software to investigate the fate of a drug and the potential physiological parameters that would have an impact on that fate, he explained. It could also be used to explore the impact of taking multiple medicines as well as the effect of genetics, age, and ethnicity on drug response.

Additionally, rather than assuming a linear relationship between dose and age when making dosage recommendations for children, researchers can use the simulator "to scale adult doses back to what the dose should be in neonates," he said.

Meanwhile, the simulator's animal module could be used to explore drug responses in different breeds of dogs as well as to test the effect of agrochemicals, such as weed killers, on domesticated farm animals in silico, he said.

Simcyp offers its platform as a service — usually to smaller biotechnology companies with limited financial clout and personnel — but larger customers can license the simulator for internal use. To do that, they have to join Simcyp's consortium of companies, which includes Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, and Eli Lilly as well as the US Food and Drug Administration, Toon said.

The company chose this approach, Toon said, to ensure that its product is developed in "very close harmony with our customer base" as well as to bring together like-minded individuals in the pharma space.

Consortium members pay a fee, which is also the cost of the software license, and meet annually to discuss current applications of the software, successes and failures that occur during use, and directions for future development, he explained.

An added benefit of the consortium model, according to Toon, is that it enables pharmaceutical companies to share precompetitive information — an activity that groups like the Pistoia Alliance also encourage and support.

At the moment, the bulk of Simcyp's revenue comes from licensing fees from consortium members, but Toon said its consultancy service is the most "rapidly expanding" part of its business.

Have topics you'd like to see covered in BioInform? Contact the editor at uthomas [at] genomeweb [.] com.