High risk, high payoff

Metabolon, Lipomics Technologies combine forces to fight obesity, cancer

Lori Lesko
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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.—With obesity and cancer on therise worldwide, the recent marriage of mega-tech giants Metabolon Inc. andSacramento Calif.-based Lipomics Technologies holds not only the promise ofnew, more effective treatments for these major health risks, but providesopportunities to develop more diagnostics, personalized medicine and commercialservices across the globe.
 
Metabolon's friendly acquisition of Lipomics in Augustcombines Metabolon's metabolomics technology platform for commercial servicesand diagnostics with Lipomics' TrueMass Profiling lipids technology platform.Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.
 
 
Michael Milburn, chief scientific officer of Metabolon,says, "Metabolon has pioneered metabolomics technology and is the largestprovider of solutions globally to the pharmaceutical, healthcare, consumerproducts, nutrition and agricultural industries, as well as to hundreds ofacademic institutions. Lipomics is the leader in technology to analyze lipids,including metabolites of fatty acids, acylcarnitines, sterols, amino acids,bile acids and eicosanoids. Together, we have an unprecedented suite oftechnologies and capabilities to benefit our expanding customer base."
 
Lipomics, in partnership with pharmaceutical, biotechnologyand nutrition companies, also has the capacity to improve clinical trialstratification, reduce late-stage drug attrition, develop early tests formonitoring drug response and enable individualized health management.
 
 
"For the past 10 years, Lipomics has taken pride inproviding the best technology and science for understanding the role of lipidsin human disease, principally in metabolic diseases associated with obesity andthe lipid remodeling aspects of cancer," Lipomics Founder Steven M. Watkinsstated in a press release. "The prospect of combining our approach withMetabolon's global platform is extremely exciting. Integrating the technologieswill provide a deep and coherent understanding of biological systems and allowus to produce unparalleled services and products for years to come."
 
 
As the world population battles obesity, more cases of diabetescome into play, causing more complications and a bigger strain on thehealthcare budget. Metabolon's lead diagnostic product, Quantose IR, is ametabolomics-based insulin resistance diagnostic test for type 2 diabetes. Thetest measures levels of three novel non-glycemic biomarkers and insulin, withthe goal of detecting prediabetes earlier and with greater sensitivity thantraditional glycemic markers such as glucose and hemoglobin A1C.
 
Thus, the combined efforts of Metabolon and Lipomics "offersthe industry's leading metabolomics platform providing a global, comprehensiveanalysis of biological samples for the discovery of markers and pathwaysassociated with drug action and disease," says Todd Lynch, Metabolon's chieffinancial officer.
 
Lipomics brings to the table a suite of analytical panelsthat provide focused, quantitative coverage of key pathways involved inmetabolic, cardiovascular and inflammatory conditions, and both Metabolon andLipomics provide expert biochemical interpretation across major therapeuticareas, Lynch says.
 
 
"Metabolon has completed more than 1,500 studies across abroad range of disease areas," Lynch tells ddn. "Metabolon's diagnostic discovery efforts are focused on cancer andobesity-related diseases, while Lipomics' expertise in metabolic,cardiovascular and inflammatory conditions is very complementary to Metabolon'sefforts in both bringing solutions to our customers as well as discoveringnovel diagnostic tests."
 
 
Lynch expects positive developments from the transaction inthe near future and possible changes in his company's current business model.Lipomics' laboratory facilities will remain at its headquarters in Sacramento,while Metabolon's headquarters and laboratories will stay in Research TrianglePark. The biggest change in personnel is that Watkins has joined Metabolon'sexecutive team as chief technology officer.
 
 
"In the short term, we do not anticipate any changes to theLipomics site or personnel as a result of the acquisition," Lynch says."Longer-term, we expect significant growth at Lipomics as Lipomics' expertiseis integrated with Metabolon's Metabolytics service offerings and diagnosticdiscovery efforts. Currently, our primary focus is to integrate the Lipomics'technology with Metabolon's global biochemical profiling platform in a way thatprovides more value to our customers. We believe the combined capabilities ofthese two technologies provides the most powerful solution to answer global—aswell as more focused questions—related to small-molecule research."
 
 
The acquisition of Lipomics "will have positive impact onour Metabolytics service business growth and enhance our efforts to discoverand develop novel diagnostic tests that we believe will provide significantbenefit to overall healthcare," Lynch adds. 
 
Metabolon CEO John Ryals predicts, "In 2013, we will bemarketing additional diagnostic products aimed at diseases related to obesityand cancer." The combined company will have more than 140 employees and 450clients, 2,000 completed commercial projects and 200 scientific papers eitherpublished or under review, Ryals adds.
 
"Last year alone, Metabolon completed more than 500 clientstudies and processed over 50,000 samples for customers," he notes.

Lori Lesko

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