Crown Bioscience, Inc. recently acquired Preclinical Oncology Services Ltd. (PRECOS), a preclinical service provider with expertise in oncology. The acquisition positions Crown among the largest suppliers of oncology services with a global footprint spanning North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. CrownBio provides translational platforms and drug discovery solutions in the therapeutic areas of oncology and metabolic disease.
Headquartered in Santa Clara, CA, the company also has research facilities in Kannapolis, NC, Beijing and Taicang, China. PRECOS provides reproducible, patient-relevant in vivo and in vitro oncology models as a business unit of the University of Nottingham, UK. In 2010 PRECOS became fully independent to provide commercial service to clients. We spoke with Jean-Pierre Wery, president of Crown Bioscience, regarding the acquisition and how it will affect the two companies. --KB
Contract Pharma: What was the strategy behind the PRECOS acquisition?
Jean-Pierre Wery: Crown Bioscience specializes in providing unique translational and drug discovery technologies to its partners in two dedicated therapeutic areas: Oncology and Metabolic Diseases. For Oncology we provide an extensive list of technologies covering most needs for pre-clinical drug discovery. Recently there has been a much-heightened interest in translational technologies, which can improve the early selection of compounds and much better probability of success for clinical development. Of particular interest is a platform called PDX (for Patient Derived Xenograft). These animal models have been shown to be extremely predictive of the effect of drugs on human cancers.
Both Crown and Precos have been working on PDX technologies for several years and have produced very complimentary platforms. Crown has currently the largest collection of PDX models in the world, but most of these models are from Asian origin. Precos has a large collection of Caucasian models and also specialized models such as drug resistant models and metastatic models. Also, the other cancer biology and pharmacology tools developed by each company are very complimentary. Precos also brings important imaging capabilities to the combined companies. Also, in addition to the technological capabilities, there’s also a great deal of complementary business development activities. Crown has been a very dominant service provider in Asia and the United States while Precos is a well-recognized name in Europe. The combined company can provide the best service platforms for preclinical drug discovery and translational sciences for customers worldwide.
CP: What range of services will the combined company offer?
JW: We will be able to offer services for all preclinical needs. Our expertise covers a wide range of activities, from early target discovery and validation to the delivery of a clinical candidate. Our translational technologies enable the discovery of biomarkers to facilitate and improve the probability of clinical development success.
CP: How do the service offerings differ and/or complement existing capabilities for each company?
JW: The biggest impact will be in the area of translational sciences. The increased number of PDX models (and their increased diversity. Asian vs. Caucasian) greatly enhance the ability of the platform to answer critical questions regarding the potential of a new drug candidate and the best clinical path. The development of specialized models (such as resistant models and metastatic models) and the availability of imaging technologies will also greatly enhanced the power of the translational platform.
CP: In what areas do you expect to gain scope/scale as a result of the acquisition?
JW: One particular exciting application of the PDX technology is the possibility of running animal model trials actually mimicking human clinical trials. Since each PDX model represents a patient, if a compound can be tested in a sufficiently large number of models, the data generated can be extremely useful in identifying therapeutic indications and biomarker for patient selection. Recent experiments have demonstrated that these animal models trials can be very predictive of what will happen in the human clinical trial. Of course, the use of such approach requires the availability of a large and diverse collection of PDX models in order to generate meaningful data and correctly sample the targeted patient populations. The combination of Crown and Precos PDX models platforms has created the largest and most diverse PDX collection in the world. Also, because of the scale of our operations, we can keep many models “live” and immediately available for use. This enables us to complete a trial in just a few months instead of a year or more. This timely data generation is critical to ensure that the information will impact the design of the clinical development of a new drug candidate.
CP: Will PRECOS run separately or operate under a single CrownBio business model?
JW: After an appropriate integration period, both companies will run under a single business model.
CP: In what other areas is CrownBio looking to grow, either internally or via acquisition?
JW: We are passionate about making the drug discovery and development process more efficient and more successful in areas of Oncology and Metabolic Diseases where many unmet medical needs still exists. This led us to focus our R&D efforts on the development of improved translational technologies. Other areas of interest for us are target identification/validation, lead optimization, biomarker identification and validation. We will continue our internal research efforts in these areas but we will also look at external opportunities.
CP: Are there geographic regions of growth that you're trying to reach?
JW: We currently have customers in all major markets around the world. We are of course interested in continuing to improve our market share in each area and to make our technologies available to as many customers as possible.
CP: Are you seeing an increase in preclinical outsourcing? If so, what specific areas?
JW: Yes, we are seeing changes in the types of services that organizations are outsourcing and their frequency. There is a more sophisticated use of external partners and the models chosen. For example, in 2013 the growth in the use of PDX for oncology has been dramatic as research organizations look to use more patient-relevant models to screen their candidates in the preclinical setting.
CP: What are some market trends in preclinical outsourcing?
JW: In oncology and metabolic diseases, the current market trend is clearly towards more patient-relevant models and translational platforms that enable efficacy testing based on patient stratification. Many clients now generate their own biomarker fingerprints to select responders and non-responders in a population, so having access to large collections of well-characterized models that more closely relate to the patient condition in the clinic is key in enabling them to find models, which are relevant to use for screening.
Kristin Brooks is the associate editor of Contract Pharma.