Behind the Scenes: R&D and Innovation at Biogelx
Mitch Scanlan, CEO
Mr. Scanlan is a charismatic leader, and business growth addict, who has successfully driven the commercialization of a range of technology and service companies within the life sciences sector. Mitch has worked for large multinationals, SME’s and start-ups including Millipore, Quintiles, Deloitte, Touche, Sartorius Stedim Biotech, Bioprocessors Corporation, and BioOutsource Limited. In his current role, Mitch works on the business transformation of a Scottish biomaterial SME called Biogelx.
What is Biogelx for those who may not have heard of the company’s novel 3D peptide-based hydrogels?
Biogelx is helping people working in translational science, drug discovery and tissue engineering by “making in vitro cell cultures more in vivo”. We do this through manufacturing and supplying 3D cell cultures that can be tuned to specific tissues and synthetic bioinks that are reproducible and easy to handle.
Our portfolio of biomaterials is comprised of synthetic peptide hydrogels that act as extracellular-matrix environments to support cell growth. In addition, the chemical and physical properties of our biomaterials can be precisely tuned to replicate the characteristics of specific tissues so that the cells experience and engage with a realistic 3D environment. These unique cell-matching capabilities enable pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies, medical researchers and academics to better predict the safety and efficacy of screened compounds before they enter expensive clinical trials.
What are the biggest challenges the 3D Cell Culture industry is facing today?
On the whole, the 3D cell culture industry is an exciting field in which to be operating. In fact, the global 3D cell culture is expected to grow by 15% between now and 2024 to $1.69bn. This growth is driven by a demand in the areas of stem cell research, tissue engineering, drug discovery and, in particular, toxicity testing. That’s because pharmaceutical companies are increasingly looking for in vitro models that better predict the safety and efficacy of compounds before they are studied in humans. A report by BIO in 2016 found that over 90% of drug candidates entering Phase I trials fail to make it to marketing authorisation and a recent report from Deloitte found that, as a result, the cost of bringing a drug to market increased from $1.5bn in 2016 to $2bn in 2017.
However, although the benefits of 3D cell culture over 2D screening are increasingly recognised there are considerations that prevent a wholesale adoption of phenotypic screening in industry.
Firstly, the development of cell-based models to identify more specific cell behaviours costs more than traditional, 2D high throughput screening and represents an additional step in the drug discovery process. This means the methods and outcomes need to be proven and validated in order to demonstrate value to the industry. This takes time, requires investment and demands benchmarking that isn’t necessarily well established.
Secondly, this is an emerging field and awareness of the different technologies and evidence supporting them isn’t widespread. So, sharing of data, insights and education with industry is important. In addition, this emerging field doesn’t yet have the imaging and analysis techniques associated with it in the same way they exist for more traditional high throughput screening.
Finally, the need for the industry to outsource these capabilities is clearly an opportunity for 3D cell culture providers but it also takes many organisations (pharmaceutical companies included) into the unknown territory of joint ventures and collaborations. Navigating intellectual property agreements and the development of new business models is something that requires time and an appetite for trying something new.
What is new for this year as opposed to the previous one at Biogelx?
This year we have been focusing on better serving the end user through the commercial transformation of the company. We have developed a new sales and marketing strategy that aims to educate, share data and provide insight. To achieve this, we’ve recruited additional science and commercial professionals, and we’ve increased our spend on Research and Development.
We recently launched our new 3D Cell Culture product range which offers functionalized cell culture matrices in response to market demand and in September we will launch our new generation peptide-based 3D bio-ink portfolio (BiogelxTM-INK).
In addition, we have been supporting Masters and Ph.D. students who are developing an osteogenic sarcoma model, an osteoarthritis model, wound healing applications and 3D bioprinting application for biomimetic bone grafts. We have also collaborated with external partners on two cancer research projects and applied for funding for a third.
Can you tell us more about the future product and service developments at Biogelx?
After the launch of our new, tissue specific 3D cell cultures and our synthetic bioink this year we will be working to launch another product before the end of 2018. This product will retain the key features of our biomaterials and will be particularly interesting for researchers currently using Matrigel.
Beyond 2018, we will be working to realise our ambition of developing the biological capability within the company to complement the chemistry that makes our products unique. We are also extremely excited to be starting a research project that aims to make personalised cancer treatment a reality for the future.
Biogelx will host a live webinar on October 25; what do the audience gain from attending this webinar?
This webinar has been designed for industry researchers, translational scientists and academics working in drug screening, toxicity testing and cell biology. The audience will gain insight from leading academics into the role of 3D cell culture in preclinical biomedical research as well as the specific role of Biogelx’s 3D cell culture in stem cell research and developing liver models for toxicity texting. The speakers will provide insight and experience gained through their work at the Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University, the City University of New York, the University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow.
The webinar will provide insight into the increasing role of 3D cell culture techniques in providing more physiologically-relevant results to more traditional 2D culture systems. There will also be perspectives as to why hydrogels are the most promising option in the development of 3D cell cultures that mimic both the salient elements and mechanics of native ECMs. The audience will also see the evidence for Biogelx’s 3D cell culture products in stem cell research and in the development of liver models.
How can people learn more about Biogelx’s peptide-based hydrogel products?
After the live event, this webinar will be available on our website Biogelx.com. You will also see on our blog that we regularly publish the latest insight and perspectives from the world of 3D cell culture along with the latest evidence for our products. But above all, working in partnership is a priority for Biogelx so you can always contact us in person by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always here to answer questions, help solve problems and develop bespoke solutions.