Molecular Imaging (MI) is dedicated to the use of small-animal imaging in the drug discovery process. “We use a full range of imaging modalities for anatomical, functional, and molecular outputs, enabling us to provide our customers with combined pharmacology and imaging biomarkers that assist in their go/no-go decision-making process,” says Patrick McConville, Ph.D., co-founder and CSO.
“We customize our approach with every project. The customer brings us their compounds and we do the rest; we order the animals, acclimatize them on-site, induce the disease state, and interrogate the pharmacology. Imaging is then performed using one or more modalities usually over multiple time points to extract predictive biomarker(s) with the aim to perform the analysis in real time.”
The increasing reliance on imaging in the pharmaceutical industry as well as parallel improvements in the technology has enabled MI to add a broad base of imaging assays. These assays are validated and applied to the noninvasive study of disease in the context of the otherwise normal physiology of the animal.
MI is currently primarily focused on oncology and inflammation diseases. The latter also extends its reach to the broader area of metabolic and cardiovascular disease. It plans to expand its offerings by developing expertise in other disease areas, and this expansion will occur in parallel to the addition of emerging imaging platforms. Using ancillary technologies such as MRI contrast agents, PET tracers, and optical probes to study these disease states, it is looking to pull together richer, more reliable datasets.
Another trend is the use of whole-animal imaging for drug safety and toxicology studies. MI is an active participant in the consortium set up by the Health & Environmental Science Institute to define guidelines and set the industry standard for imaging in preclinical safety assessment.
Avacta Analytical was spun out of the University of Leeds in 2005. The business focuses on providing extended protein-characterization services, specializing in biophysical and physico-chemical analytics. Avacta offers a range of techniques not traditionally found in every lab or even at CROs.
Its experience of using these techniques and applying them to different types of therapeutic proteins is central to its success. It provides smaller organizations with the ability to access additional analytical resource and provides extra capacity for larger multinationals.
“We mainly work in the R&D phase of drug development, looking at stability, comparability, aggregation, formulation selection, and general protein characterization,” explains Richard Perkins, business development manager.
“We advise our customers on the pros and cons of various analytical techniques, making sure the package we provide is fit for purpose. Techniques such as analytical ultracentrifugation, FTIR (fourier transform infrared spectrometry), and circular dichroism are not familiar to most, so we have learned that extensive consultation and open communication with the customer before and after projects is vital."