MALVERN, Pa.—The acquisition of Freiburg, Germany-based ProQinase by Reaction Biology Corporation (RBC) seven months ago has taken the combined company one step closer toward creating the world’s leading kinase drug discovery company, complete with diverse offerings and operations in the United States and Europe, according to the CEOs.
The friendly takeover is about to “deepen our expansive geographic footprint,” a plan RBC has been working toward on for more than a year before closing the deal Feb. 4, 2019, CEO Matt Oristano tells DDNews. This gave the staffs from each company time “to get to know the folks and get everybody on the same page.”
In addition, RBC plans to open a China-based subsidiary in collaboration with its new shareholder, ChinaEquity Group (CEG).
“We have grown our global position as an early-stage drug discovery leader,” Oristano adds. “Our combined firm now has a customer list approaching 1,500, and we now offer a more diverse group of service options for each customer. Our ability to stage drug discovery efforts from Europe, the U.S. and China will be a great benefit to our customers.”
Chaoyong Wang, founder and CEO of ChinaEquity Group, is “extremely pleased to help create this multinational platform for drug-discovery services. ChinaEquity has maintained a heavy focus on life-science companies in our portfolio of more than 200 company holdings, and putting our ProQinase assets together with RBC means we can build strategic value as we enter the China drug-discovery services market. We greatly look forward to working with Matt and his team in opening up the China market to them.”
Each company brings something significant to the table.
Founded in 2001, ProQinase specializes in kinase-based drug discovery, and in 2018 provided a full suite of biochemical and cell-based assays to over 230 customers worldwide. In addition, ProQinase has a large and growing offering of in-vivo assay services, including 70 tumor models and immuno-oncology platforms with proprietary mouse models.
Also founded in 2001, RBC is a leader in early-stage drug discovery services, with a heavy focus on kinase and epigenetic drug targets for both biochemical and cell-based assays. In recent years, RBC has also added biophysical and electrophysical assay platforms to its service offering mix, and has served customers worldwide, ranging from small start-ups and biotechs to major pharmaceuticals, academia and government labs.
But the lynchpin to its future success was the decision to bring Sebastian Dempe, an expert in oncology animal studies, back on as CEO and managing director of ProQinase at a new, state-of-the-art facility in Freiburg, complete with the latest technology. Hired July 1, Dempe hit the ground running.
A biologist by training, Dempe earned his doctorate degree from the German Cancer Research Center/ University of Heidelberg in 2010 where he was exploiting the capacity of parvovirus H1, currently tested in clinical studies, for the virotherapy of cancer using various preclinical research models. Starting his career in business development at ProQinase (2011-2014), Dempe was later appointed as executive director business development of Crown Bioscience Inc., leading the company’s European Business Development team until June 2019.
“Sebastian brings three things to the table: one, an unbelievable knowledge of ProQinase and the space we operate in; two, extraordinary high expertise; and three, the instinct and energy to seize opportunities,” Oristano says.
Dempe comments that, “Our main focus is to provide services to the biopharma industry. We will be strengthening our in-vivo and cell-based assay services and expanding in BD [business development] power. After eight years in BD, I wanted to broaden my knowledge in the preclinical CRO space. I’ve worked three years in BD at ProQinase before having worked with CrownBio for five years. As I have always seen tons of potential in ProQinase, I re-joined to help grow this new site now of RBC.”
He also points out that since being acquired, ProQinase has benefitted from the “sales power in the U.S., which is much bigger than what we had before. Also, the financial support is huge. We could finance the move to the new facility, buy additional equipment, hire new BD and thus increase our market share. Without the help of RBC, we would not be able to achieve our very ambitious goals in terms of growth.”
The China connection “will be very beneficial for RBC/PQ, as the China preclinical oncology service market is huge and has seen an incredible and never-seen growth over the last two years,” Dempe adds. “We hope to benefit from it.”
In other news, RBC announced June 4 it received a subcontract from Leidos Biomedical Research Inc., which operates the Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research for the National Cancer Institute, to work on an early-stage drug discovery project for the National Cancer Institute’s Experimental Therapeutics (NExT) program using Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) technology. As part of the project, RBC will be working in collaboration with the Fesik Drug Discovery Research group at Vanderbilt University.
Focused on colorectal cancer, the collaboration will attempt to identify small molecules that affect the Wnt signaling pathway, which has been extensively researched as a target for the disease.