Caliper gets $2.9 million contract from EPA

Work involves Phase II of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ToxCast screening program

Jeffrey Bouley
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HOPKINTON, Mass.—Caliper Life Sciences Inc. recently snagged a $2.9 million contract awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Phase II of its ToxCast screening program—which aims to identify toxic environmental chemicals by using tests previously validated in the pharmaceutical drug discovery industry. Caliper's contract research organization, Caliper Discovery Alliances and Services (CDAS), is conducting this research to help predict how chemicals such as pesticides will interact with the environment, humans and animals.

Together with an initial Phase II task order awarded in November 2009, this new task order increases the cumulative funding Caliper has been awarded under Phase II of the ToxCast program to $4.7 million.

"This latest EPA task order improves the visibility we have for achieving our CDAS unit revenue projections in the second half of 2010, and should provide us good momentum into 2011," commented Kevin Hrusovsky, President and CEO of Caliper.

Ironically, while the tests being used in ToxCast got their field testing in pharma and biotech, the hundreds of chemicals that went through the first phase of ToxCast included no pharmaceuticals among them—mostly pesticides. In Phase II, some of the 700 environmental compounds to be screened will include pharmaceuticals, says David Manyak, executive vice president of drug discovery services for Caliper.

Caliper Life Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: CALP), a leading provider of tools and services for drug discovery and life sciences research, today announced that its Caliper Discovery Alliances and Services (CDAS) unit has been awarded a new funding commitment for $2.9 million under its contract with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the EPA's ToxCast screening program.  
"Phase II of the ToxCast program will involve screening another 700 environmental compounds through a wide set of assays. We expect to begin the Phase II effort within the next several months after the Phase II compound library is delivered to us by the EPA," Manyak notes.  

Although the work with the EPA isn't really pharma or biotech focused, Manyak says there is an upshot for the pharmaceutical side of the business in all of this.

"Our work with the EPA is a strong validation of our services and the industry is taking notice," he says. "We have seen increased interest from the pharmaceutical, chemical, and cosmetic industries in CDAS commercial services based on in vitro toxicology assays represented in the ToxCast panel."

 The long-term goal of the EPA's ToxCast program is to identify in vitro assays that can predict the toxicity of chemical compounds in humans and animals, by comparing the results of in vitro testing conducted by Caliper and others with the toxicity data in the EPA's in vivo toxicity database, ToxRefDB.

As Manyak notes, if all goes well, the use of such assays may be able to reduce the need for animal testing, or perhaps replace it entirely in some cases. Aside from sparing animals, he says, this would also reduce costs and improve the speed of regulatory approval of new chemicals—environmental ones in the case of EPA's goals, of course, but potential in the pharma world as well if these kinds of assays continue to gain traction there.

Jeffrey Bouley

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