New Innovator: Innovamab

Paul Leonard: “DiCAST offers a significant advance over competing technologies resulting in a higher probability of finding optimal new drugs.”

Paul Leonard: “DiCAST offers a significant advance over competing technologies resulting in a higher probability of finding optimal new drugs.”

Mon, Mar 17, 2014, 01:00

Innovation and development costs are a big issue for pharma companies in search of the next breakthrough drug. Cutting-edge technologies that can increase the chances of new drug discovery are of considerable interest and DiCAST, from newly-formed Dublin City University spin-out, Innovamab, claims to do just that.

“Direct Clone Analysis and Selection Technology (DiCAST) is a patented drug discovery technology that can not only reduce the time and cost for drug development but also has the potential to find new drug candidates that nobody else can,” says company co-founder and biotechnology lecturer, Paul Leonard, who is also principal investigator at the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute.

“Monoclonal antibody technology offers the greatest current opportunity to improve human health with new drugs. However, despite the huge potential, the inability to effectively test billions of potential candidates with key therapeutic parameters remains a major blockage. DiCAST has the potential to change this,” Leonard says. “The problem is not how to generate the drug producing cells but how to test their potential to find the one that could become the next blockbuster drug.

“Researchers run exhaustive tests to select the most suitable one for clinical trials. But technology has not kept pace and this process could best be described as searching the internet without Google. DiCAST offers a significant advance over competing technologies resulting in a higher probability of finding optimal new drugs. It is reported that as many as 19 out of 20 drugs fail to reach the market. This means we may be missing the next generation of breakthrough treatments for current unmet treatments while the cost of new drug development is now spiralling out of control.”

Market ready
Leonard and the co-inventors of DiCAST, Valerie Fitzgerald and Prof Richard O’Kennedy, have spent the last 36 months bringing DiCAST from a radical idea to a market ready technology.

The process has been financially supported by Science Foundation Ireland and Enterprise Ireland through a development and commercialisation grant. Innovamab is now in the final stages of spin-out and Leonard estimates the company will employ 10 people by the end of the year with further jobs in 2015.

Leonard’s cofounder in the venture is former Merrion Pharmaceuticals CEO, John Lynch.

“Innovamab offers a disruptive product that leapfrogs current technology capabilities and provide simple and elegant solutions to long standing technical or practical problems,” Lynch says.

Bringing its technology to industry attention is the next step and the company will shortly participate in Bio-Europe, a global biotechnology industry gathering designed to introduce lifescience companies to potential partners.

The forum will also provide Innovamab with opportunities to meet potential backers. The company is looking to raise an initial seed investment round of €1.2 million to fund its next phase of development.

– OLIVE KEOGH