Geared up for GPCRs

DiscoveRx, Caliper team up on microfluidic, cell-based assay deal targeting GPCR researchers

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FREMONT, Calif.—In early May, DiscoveRx Corp. announced a collaboration with Caliper Life Sciences Inc. to enable a range of DiscoveRx cell-based G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) assays to be run on Caliper's LabChip platforms. Specifically, the combined offering bundles optimized DiscoveRx cellular assays including Path Hunter ß-Arrestin and cAMP Hunter with LabChip systems.

"Caliper's LabChip platform has become the industry standard for kinase profiling and within the oncology therapeutic area," says Nate Cosper, director of marketing for Caliper. "17 of the 20 largest pharma companies already have it. Cell-based assays for GPCRs is a completely new class of assays for the LabChip platform and is a growing and important area of research that we wanted to make available to those customers."

While the drive for Caliper was to continue to broaden the range of assays type that can be run on its flagship LabChip platform, the move to work with Caliper is a bit of a departure for DiscoveRx, though it should open up new markets.

"Historically, DiscoveRx has been a company with a technology that is open to all different assay platforms," says Teresa Schaub, director of drug discovery services for DiscoveRx. "It was a good partnership on the GPCRs as Caliper was looking for an assay platform, and it was a good fit for us since it gave us access to a closed platform system that is well-known and used extensively by researchers."

Marketing of the added capabilities will be conducted through reciprocal links on both companies' Web sites: visitors to Caliper's site will have a quick link to the DiscoveRx site where they can order the appropriate cells lines and reagents for their research. In addition, the companies intend to provide joint presentations to companies to both detail the advantages of using the DiscoveRx cell lines on the LabChip platform while helping researchers select the appropriate assays and cell lines for their work.

"The agreement is that DiscoveRx will continue to sell their reagents and they are creating specific kits appropriate for our platform," says Cosper.

By the end of this month, DiscoveRx should have roughly 30 assays ready with others being added in the ensuing months as they are optimized and validated.

"The goal will be to mirror what we have for cell lines—which is currently 125—for this," says Schaub. "But there is an evaluation process to determine which of those lines we will work on first. We do need to treat the cells so they can't divide and I anticipate some of them may be harder to optimize in that way, so they will take a bit longer, but there is no reason to think we won't be able to provide all our cells lines."

Work to bring the optimized assays to market began earlier this year, says Cosper, with DiscoveRx taking a LabChip in-house before an agreement was finalized to run a variety of sub-types through their paces on the platform.

While Cosper doesn't think the deal will lead to additional sales of the platform by itself, it will provide added functionality for those who already own the instrument.

"We have a large handful of our LabChips in core profiling centers so the instrument is already in use for other applications," he says. "Some of these core groups are already doing the evaluations of the DiscoveRx assays and will be able to use the LabChips more completely, to help these companies develop new therapeutics, which is really what this is all about." DDN

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