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Leaving the nest
CAMBRIDGE, U.K.—Metrion Biosciences Ltd. is setting out on its own with the recent announcement of the successful completion of its management buyout from Xention Limited. Metrion was established as the contract research business of Xention in May of this year and is now a standalone independent contract research company. Dr. Marc Rogers, previously vice president of research for Xention, led the buyout with investment support from Dr. John Ford, chief scientific officer of Xention, and Dr. Keith McCullagh, Xention’s chairman.
Rogers leads the Metrion team, with Dr. John Ridley as business manager and McCullagh and Ford joining the board as investor directors.
“I am excited to be leading Metrion as we commence a new phase of the company’s development as an independent CRO,” Rogers commented in a press release. “The team behind Metrion pioneered automated patch clamp electrophysiology, and with deep expertise in the field, the company is well placed to provide high-quality, bespoke and flexible screening services.”
Metrion offers expertise in ion channel biology and safety screening, providing comprehensive, high-quality ion channel services to the pharma and biotech industries, and its research team has brought five ion channel drug candidates to the clinic so far. The company will retain its existing pharma collaboration agreements, and in the wake of this separation will be able to support additional projects in different therapeutic areas.
“The decision to launch Metrion Biosciences reflects the increasing global demand for high-quality ion channel assay services, and an opportunity to commercialize the extensive expertise in ion channel drug development within the Metrion team,” Ridley explains to DDNews. “As Xention and its investors wanted to concentrate on their preclinical and clinical programs for atrial fibrillation, the split allowed biology and management staff to spin-out the ion channel biology and cardiac safety screening assets and knowhow into a new company to focus on providing high-quality ion channel services to the pharma and biotech industries.”
“Since gaining independence and establishing ourselves as an independent CRO, we have been pleasantly surprised by the large amount of interest Metrion has seen for our ion channel screening services,” he adds.
Ridley says that there’s been a rise in activity in the contract research sector in recent years, driven mostly by “increased outsourcing by biotech and pharma (mainly due to cost-cutting measures and large mergers) and M&A activity within the CRO sector.” A leading focus of that activity is cardiac safety screening, which Ridley says comprised 37 percent of outsourced ion channel screening last year.
He expects that a good portion of future growth within the area of cardiac safety screening will relate to the new guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency in the Comprehensive in-vitro Proarrhythmic Assay (CiPA) initiative. A significant part of Metrion’s service offerings includes “screening against the CiPA panel of human cardiac ion channels,” which Ridley points out is a key part of the FDA’s guidelines for evaluating cardiac safety. Those guidelines also include “in-silico modeling of cardiac action potential effects and confirmation of results on human stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes,” and he adds that Metrion is developing services for both of those testing components.
“Metrion expects to see increased business through the CiPA initiative, as we already have validated screening assays and in-silico action potential models for the full CiPA panel of cardiac ion channels, and we are developing translational assays using human stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes. All of these cardiac safety assays will be available in a comprehensive package for our customers by the time the CiPA guidelines come into effect in late 2016,” he remarks.