CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Sygnature Discovery recently noted that its U.S. office has moved to a new location at 245 First Street in Cambridge near Kendall Square, the heart of the Boston-Cambridge biotech hub.
It’s only a small move geographically—just a couple of miles down the road from the old location near Harvard Square—but the company views it as significant. There are more than 100 pharma/biotech companies within a mile of the new office, and many more in the wider Boston-Cambridge area.
“The Boston/Cambridge area is quite a unique place in the world with so many biotechs, pharma organizations and top-tier universities all in one place. We already have clients there, but in the interest of expanding our client base locally and better serving our customers across the USA, we wanted to be as close as we can to as many of them as possible. While the Harvard Square area is a great location, the density of customers and potential customers for us is higher around Kendall Square,” says Paul Clewlow, Sygnature’s senior vice president of business development. “Our laboratories are still in two locations: Nottingham (where our HQs also are) and Alderley Park UK.”
“We have seen the benefits of having a physical presence in Harvard Square, and it has served us really well,” adds Anders Lindstrom, director of marketing at Sygnature. “The opportunity to move closer to the Kendall Square center of the biotech cluster was one we could not pass up.”
The U.S. has been a significant market for Sygnature since it entered the drug discovery sector 15 years ago. Many Sygnature scientists have studied and worked at U.S. institutions, including MIT and Harvard. Half of the company’s business is now in the U.S., with customers all across the country and huge demand from U.S. companies ranging from big pharma to small university spinouts.
“We aim to be the absolute best when it comes to collaboration and communication with our clients, and having an office in the middle of what is arguably the densest biotech cluster in the world is a great facilitator of this,” notes Lindstrom. “Sygnature’s revenue from the USA already accounts for over 50 percent, so this location serves as a great platform to continue to build on our market presence and continue grow our customer base all across North America. Sygnature also has clients in San Francisco Bay and San Diego, and it is worth noting that our U.S. customer base includes the midwest as well as the East Coast.”
“Each improvement in how we serve customers is exciting to us, so we’re pleased to be able to get even closer to many of them in our biggest market. But while this location is great, what really sets us apart is the quality of the science we do, our track record of delivering on our projects, and high customer satisfaction,” Lindstrom concludes. “As a growing CRO we continually have strategic improvements planned, so watch this space.”
Sygnature has also recently collaborated with the University of Birmingham and shown that it’s possible to produce a compound with anti-cancer properties directly from feverfew, a common flowering garden plant. The compound the team was investigating is called parthenolide, and it was identified by scientists as having anti-cancer properties several years ago. Although available commercially, it’s extremely expensive, has poor “drug-like” properties, and hasn’t progressed beyond basic research.
“This research is important not only because we have shown a way of producing parthenolide that could make it much more accessible to researchers, but also because we’ve been able to improve its ‘drug-like’ properties to kill cancer cells. It’s a clear demonstration that parthenolide has the potential to progress from the flowerbed into the clinic,” Prof. John Fossey, of the University of Birmingham’s School of Chemistry, explained in a press release.
The study, published in MedChemComm, was a multidisciplinary program drawing together researchers from Sygnature Discovery, the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Cancer and Genomic Studies, and the School of Chemistry. The University's Winterbourne Botanic Garden oversaw the cultivation of the plants in sufficient volume for the drug screen. It was initiated by Dr. Angelo Agathanggelou of the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Studies, who is investigating new ways to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a type of cancer which typically affects older people.
“There are several effective treatments for CLL, but after a time the disease in some patients becomes resistant,” explained Agathanggelou. “We were interested in finding out more about the potential of parthenolide. With expertise from colleagues in the School of Chemistry, we’ve been able to demonstrate that this compound shows real promise and could provide alternative treatment options for CLL patients.”