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26 October, 2018 - 11:16 By Tony Quested

End animal experiments to fix ‘broken drug discovery process’, says biotech angel

Cambridge life science investor Dr Jonathan Milner has lifted the lid on what he calls a broken drug discovery process and called for a more enlightened approach utilising human cells in research and ending animal experiments.

Dr Milner is backing Cambridge UK startup Elpis Biomed and believes its technology will transform a drug discovery process which often descends into a busted flush. Dr Milner, co-founder of life science tools provider Abcam, pulled no punches in an address to the recent European Laboratory Research & Innovation Group (ELRIG) Drug Discovery Conference.

During his plenary address on ‘Opportunities in the Golden Age of Biology’ Dr Milner said: “Over the past decades, the return on investment on pharmaceutical research and development has suffered exponential decline.

“A main contributor to the rising costs of drug development are high failure rates, both at the pre-clinical and clinical stage.

“The causes for drug failure are likely due to the biological differences between the current animal models and cell lines used for drug discovery and human biology. The solution to this problem is to integrate human cell models early into the drug development process.”

Although human cells are better models for drugs screening, few were featured at the ELRIG conference. Dr Milner commented: “The lack of human cell models being utilised boils down to the fact that the current technology for generating patient derived cells does not meet the requirements for drug screening.”

He said that Elpis, backed by Dr Milner’s personal investment, “provides the first robust and scalable solution of functional biologically-relevant cells for drug development,” adding “Elpis human cells can fix the broken drug discovery process by replacing animal experiments.” 

Based at ideaSpace South on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Elpis is a spin-out from the Laboratory of the Wellcome Trust MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute at the University of Cambridge.

Dr Mark Kotter, scientific founder of Elpis BioMed concluded: “Elpis’s mission is to make human cells easy. Our proprietary OPTi-OX technology allows us to produce human cells of unprecedented quality, purity, and consistency. 

“We are developing a wide range of cell products to support the research, drug discovery and cell therapy communities and are delighted that our technology has been brought to the attention of an audience of drug discovery experts by an industry heavyweight like Dr Milner.”

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Dr Jonathan Milner

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