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Clyde Biosciences: cutting the cost of drug development

Copyright: Clyde Biosciences

Spinout company Clyde Biosciences from the University of Glasgow has developed an automated system – cellOPTIQ – that provides powerful insights into the mechanisms and actions of drugs. It enables researchers to determine, early in the developmental process, pharmaceutical compounds that will adversely affect human cells, especially heart tissue. These candidate drugs can then be filtered out of the discovery pipeline, thus saving millions of pounds and working hours on chemicals that are more likely to fail at the latter stages of clinical trials.

"Out of up to 10,000 potential drugs, developed at huge expense over decades, only about four or five are successful in late clinical trials," says Dr Margaret Ann Craig, CEO of Clyde Biosciences and one of the company’s founders. "cellOPTIQ can remove these failures at an early stage – cutting drug discovery time and costs."

Data breakout

10% Approximate proportion of drugs in phase I clinical trials that are subsequently approved
USD$1.8Bn Estimated average cost of a new drug according to a 2010 study
£2M Value of a 'Series A' investment in Clyde Biosciences led by Epidarex Capital, an early-stage life science venture capital fund

Clyde Biosciences has now established two partnerships with major pharmaceutical companies, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, who use their systems to screen libraries of potential new drugs.

Other drug-assay technologies in the field, such as microelectrode array, measure electrical activity in the solution outside of the cell. The advantage of the CellOPTIQ system is that it provides more meaningful data around the cell membrane where drugs enter and leave, as well as being cheaper and easier to use.

Two BBSRC grants supported the initial work by Craig and University of Glasgow colleagues into the measurement of electrical activity in single cells. Subsequently, the research received grants from EPSRC and the British Heart Foundation, as well as translational awards from Scottish Enterprise, The Royal Society of Edinburgh and The Royal Academy of Engineering. In order to hone her business skills to commercialise the findings, Craig completed a BBSRC-Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship (read this Q&A for more).

In June 2012, Craig received the £40,000 Royal Academy of Engineering ERA Foundation Entrepreneurship Award in recognition for entrepreneurial work in the field of electro-technology. In 2014 she was made an ambassador for Women's Enterprise Scotland.

Read the full impact evidence report: