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UK MedTech shines light through ‘Valley of Death’

Cyclofluidic is now using its technology to work with collaborators in the search for tool compounds

Ground-breaking science with the promise of revolutionising early drug discovery has been unveiled by Welwyn-based Cyclofluidic Ltd using cutting-edge robotics.

The automation breakthrough leverages inward investment from two global pharma giants – Pfizer and UCB – to translate research into advanced technology and create UK highly skilled jobs.

Cyclofluidic said the alliance was an excellent example of UK government investment in Life Sciences through the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and was consistent with BioMedTech strategy announced by Prime Minister David Cameron to bridge the ‘Valley of Death.’

Scientists have used Cyclofluidic’s proprietary microfluidic system to design, make and screen potential drug molecules active against thrombin, a target associated with stroke.

Cyclofluidic’s integrated discovery platform uses microfluidic flow chemistry, on-line biochemical assays and automated drug design algorithms to make and screen potential drug molecules.

“This is a key milestone for Cyclofluidic,” said Chris Selway, the company’s CTO. “The majority of the drug molecules in this experiment were designed, made and tested by the platform overnight.”

Dr Graham Warrellow, VP Chemistry UCB, endorsed the potential of the technology. He said: “I believe that the Cyclofluidic team have accomplished a tremendous breakthrough by successfully integrating flow chemistry, screening, computational methodologies and automation.

“To have achieved this within three years is extremely exciting and offers the promise of further groundbreaking science that will significantly impact small molecule drug discovery in the years ahead.”

Cyclofluidic is now using its technology to work with collaborators in the search for tool compounds. These molecules are the key seeds for the discovery of new drugs.

Traditional methods for finding drug leads can take up to two years and cost an average of $166 million per new drug launched.

The Cyclofluidic technology promises to shorten this process and to yield lead molecules with a higher chance of success.

“We are very encouraged about this latest experiment,” said Dr Mark Bunnage, VP and head of chemistry, biotherapeutics research at Pfizer.

“It is a key result and we are very much looking forward to the future development of Cyclofluidic’s innovative approach.”

The completion of this experiment triggers the release of further milestone payments from Cyclofluidic’s investors Pfizer and UCB. Cyclofluidic is also supported by a Micro and Nano Technology Capital Fund grant from the UK Technology Strategy Board.

The UK has been a very successful location for the global pharmaceutical industry with around 20 per cent of the world’s top medicines discovered and developed in Britain. The industry invested almost €5 billion in British R & D in the last year on record and generated a trade surplus for the UK of just under €8 billion.