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Ion buy-in: Serologicals acquires Cytomyx
ATLANTA—Serologicals Corp. announced in mid-March a definitive agreement to acquire Cytomyx Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Cytomyx Holdings Plc. Based in Cambridge, U. K., Cytomyx Ltd. is a provider of ion channel cell lines and drug discovery services.
Cytomyx's 23 distinct ion channel cell lines that are commercially available today, along with more in its pipeline, were a major draw for Serologicals.
"We have a leadership position in terms of kinases and are developing a strong capacity in GPCRs. The next area in which we want to have a strong presence is the ion class," observes Dr. Diem Nguyen, senior director of corporate development for Serologicals. "We contacted Cytomyx originally about a possible partnership deal, but then we learned when we talked to them that they were available to be purchased. We're always actively looking for ways to develop and expand our drug discovery profile, so that was a fortunate event."
The acquisition is estimated at a value of $7 million and is expected to be slightly accretive to earnings this year, Nguyen reports.
In addition to simply strengthening Serologicals' capabilities within the drug discovery market, the Cytomyx acquisition will enable the company's research segment to offer pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies the largest portfolio of ion channel cell lines commercially available today, says David A. Dodd, president and CEO of Serologicals.
The Cytomyx deal will also add slightly to Serologicals' GPCR capabilities, but the skill base related to ion channels alone made the company an attractive target for Serologicals.
"The thing that people might overlook is the difficulty that exists in making biologically functional ion channels," Nguyen notes. "Even just getting a protein expressed in a functional way in a cell line is one challenge, but then getting all the subunits assembled and working is yet another challenge. The people at Cytomyx have demonstrated their ability to do that, and that is one great skill we want to capitalize on."
Biopharmacuetical customers have been keenly interested in ion channels for two key reasons, Serologicals notes. First, ion channels are implicated in a variety of pathologies, including cardiac disease, hypertension, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis and pain. Second, ion channels play a role in cardiac arrhythmia.
In fact, a specific ion channel, human ERG (hERG), has been associated with the toxicity of several pharmaceutical drugs. As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that all compounds entering clinical development are tested for activity against hERG. The acquisition of Cytomyx will allow Serologicals to provide not only kinase screening services to companies but also to test compounds for hERG liabilities and activity against other ion channels associated with cardiac safety.
"However while, most companies doing ion channel work focus on hERG, it's not exclusively what Cytomyx does," Nguyen says. "Yes, they have the hERG focus as a major part of what they do, and that's important to us, but they have other ion channel areas they are working on, which gives us a competitive strength going forward."