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Making Inroads in Predictive Toxicology

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

Given the current "Safety First" mind-set among regulators, it's not surprising that the field of predictive toxicology has been slow to gain traction. Despite significant progress in developing biomarkers, database tools, and other methods, pharma companies continue to rely heavily on traditional methods for assessing potential drug toxicities. Even if investors are shy now, many say that they will eventually be a beneficiary of predictive toxicology, and that comes as good news to start-ups in the space.

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Cellular Dynamics International Inc.

Cellular Dynamics International Inc. is using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, derived from adult cells, as drug discovery and development tools. The company is initially pursuing the cardiotoxicity market with iCell cardiomyocytes, which closely resemble in vivo cardiomyocytes, even beating in unison in a cell culture dish. When exposed to drugs or other external agents, the cells produce electrophysiological and biochemical responses typical of in vivo cardiomyocytes.

GliaGen LLC

When cells are subject to stress, they react with change at the ribosomal level, altering the process of translation and the resulting protein products. Tapping into that insight is the basic premise behind GliaGen, which is developing novel screening technologies that represent a unique, previously unknown methodology for measuring cellular stress and death. The firm's translation regulatory expression system helps assess drug candidates for toxicity and safety risks early in the lead identification and drug discovery processes.

Horizon Discovery Ltd.

Horizon Discovery is creating human isogenic cell lines aimed at making drug discovery faster and more effective, potentially leading to the creation of more targeted or personalized medicines. Their virus-based technique, known as GENESIS, can precisely engineer disease-causing and patient-specific single, double, and triple genetic mutations into normal human cells. GENESIS underpins Horizon's rapidly growing portfolio of X-MAN (Mutant And Normal) cell-line pairs that may help pharmaceutical researchers assess the likely patient response to a potential drug candidate by defining the potential patient responder demographic much earlier in the development time line.

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