Kalypsys, Panasonic to automate new areas of drug discovery

Companies recently announced a broad collaboration for the development of next-generation drug discovery systems.

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SAN DIEGO—With a goal of "filling all the auto­mation gaps in drug discovery," Kalypsys Inc. and Panasonic Factory Solutions Co. of Osaka, Japan recently announced a broad collaboration for the development of next-generation drug discovery systems.
Under the deal, financial terms of which are not being released, the two companies will produce and market equipment and integrated systems that will enable research institutions and pharma­ceutical companies to address "all aspects of drug discovery and life science research." Panasonic brings to the table its expertise in product man­ufacturing, engineering solutions and innova­tive marketing, while Kalypsys will contribute its experience in discovery and development of therapeutics, particularly small molecule drugs, in a fast, efficient and effective manner.
Court Turner, VP of strategic alliances for Kalypsys, jokes that when word began to circulate that the two companies were embarking on a plan to join forces and develop new forms of automation for drug discovery, the question was less "why did Kalypsys choose to work with Panasonic?" and more "Why does Panasonic need Kalypsys?"
But the two companies each lacked precisely what the other company had, he maintains. Panasonic had been in the life sci­ences space since 1991, but was really only well-known for that in Japan, where the company has significant market share. It also lacked drug discovery experience, but wanted to expand globally, Turner explains. Kalypsys was well-known in Europe for drug discovery, but lacked a large-scale, precision manufacturing capabil­ity to obtain a global reach.
"Through this collaboration, we expect a great synergy in the devel­opment of drug discovery sys­tems," said Katsutoshi Kanzaki, president of Panasonic Factory Solutions Co., in a news release announcing the deal. "The combi­nation of our automation technology and Kalypsys' drug discovery technology will enable us to meet the demands of research institu­tions and pharmaceutical com­panies that need a more versatile suite of drug discovery systems."
The size and versatility of a com­pany the size of Panasonic should be a boon to both the collaboration and the market as a whole, Turner says.
"There hasn't been the ability in this industry for a company to really listen to the marketplace and bring it just what it wants in the automation arena," he notes. "Most companies start with an innova­tive piece of technology and all of their products end up being built around that same technology.
"But Panasonic is a company with expe­rience in making very precise, high-reliability equipment for com­puter technology applications—which lends itself well to things like miniaturized assays and small volumes in the life sciences—and it has huge marketing powers. We are really in a position with them to start from scratch in some areas of drug discovery automation and to improve on existing options."
The size of Panasonic—more than 3,000 employees compared to the 115 at Kalypsys—also means a previously unattainable level of distribution power and ability to provide superb product support and customer service.
"The Panasonic-Kalypsys col­laboration will set the stage for the delivery of the next generation of drug discovery technology," noted Dr. John McKearn, president and CEO of Kalypsys, in the announce­ment of the collaboration. "[It's] another validation of the high-cali­ber product we provide to our cli­ents as well as use internally to drive our own drug discovery program. Moreover, Panasonic will enable us to expand our global reach."
Most likely, the new products that come out of the companies' joint work will be branded as Panasonic products, Turner says, but he could offer no other details of the busi­ness arrangement beyond that.
"With Panasonic on board, this is the first time that a company of this size and capacity will address the broad automation needs of the drug discovery market," Turner says. "Some would say GE did it first with the purchase of Amersham, but that was really just for readers. We're trying to address all the aspects of automa­tion and fill all the gaps. If there is something the industry is missing from an automation perspective and there is a need and market for it, we plan to make it."

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