Two for tissues

ReproCELL acquires life-sciences CRO Biopta

Kelsey Kaustinen
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GLASGOW, U.K.—ReproCELL Inc., a Japanese regenerative medicine company, recently acquired Scottish life-sciences company Biopta and its U.S. subsidiary Biopta Inc., in a deal that was slated to be completed Dec. 10. Following the transaction, Biopta will continue operations from its Glasgow headquarters, with plans to expand its workforce to 30 employees over the next three years. An immediate investment is expected to be made to expand Biopta's range of contract research services. No financial details for the deal were released.
“The acquisition by ReproCELL is a great opportunity to build on the solid platform we have in outsourced drug discovery services,” Dr. David Bunton, Biopta’s co-founder and CEO, said in a press release. “Scotland is known for the quality of its scientists and customer service, and ReproCELL’s investment recognizes these strengths. We have had a close partnership with BioServe, another ReproCELL Group company, for the past five years, which has helped us establish a very successful U.S. subsidiary. We see the acquisition as the natural next step in the growth of the U.K. and U.S. businesses.”
Bunton says that the company shares a facility with BioServe, and that their relationship developed as a result of that and their “common interest in the human tissue research field.” BioServe, he notes, is one of the largest bio-depositories and focuses largely on early discovery, while Biopta's services fall later in the drug discovery process, allowing them to complement each other well.
Biopta spun out of Glasgow Caledonian University in 2002, co-founded by Bunton and Prof. Chris Hillier. The company's goal was to address the high failure rate of drugs in clinical trials through the use of ethically sourced human tissues to offer more predictive data.
“The cost of each clinical failure has now become so high that most pharmaceutical companies are focusing on better preclinical selection of drugs, with a 'fail fast, fail early' approach,” remarked Elaine Ferguson, Biopta’s finance director. “Biopta’s methods are just as valuable in identifying which drugs won’t work in patients as they are in identifying the next blockbuster drug.”
In a statement regarding the reasoning of the deal, ReproCELL noted that the acquisition “is aimed at strengthening the pharmaceutical industry-targeted drug discovery support aspect of our business, which is one of the mainstays of our company … Biopta is a pioneering developer of drug discovery support services, taking an integrated approach to the provision of human tissues and preclinical contract research (CRO services) using ethically sourced human tissues.”
“The synergistic combination of our company’s world-leading iPS cell cultivation technology with Biopta’s GLP-conforming facilities (and their high level of understanding of how to put them to use in their services) marks the beginning of a hitherto unprecedented iPS cell-utilizing preclinical study service business,” the statement continued. “Additionally, we will be able to customize cells that meet the strict requirements of pharmaceutical manufacturers and medical institutions and conduct outsourced tests. This will provide us with a great competitive advantage in the rapidly expanding drug discovery support service market.”
“We see a lot of synergies between Biopta's human fresh tissue services and expertise within the ReproCELL group,” says Bunton, echoing ReproCELL's enthusiasm for the deal. “The ReproCELL group has broad expertise and interest in human tissue and stem cell field, so we really feel that Biopta can fulfill its potential as part of this bigger group and allow us to offer a broader range of services for our clients in the pharmaceutical industry.”
That broader range will hopefully encompass a number of new changes in the wake of this deal, according to Bunton. Biopta hopes to stretch its CRO muscles to be able to support clients for the duration of the drug discovery process, from target identification to the clinic. The company also wants to start offering assays in different therapeutic areas, with Bunton highlighting the central nervous system, particularly Alzheimer's, and the liver, where hepatotoxicity testing is a key driver.

Kelsey Kaustinen

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