VAST Data’s New Architecture With NVIDIA, Mount Sinai’s New Center For Psychedelic Psychotherapy, More

January 28, 2021

January 28, 2021 | New products for high-content imaging, virus reagents and enrichment, software for small molecule design, and pharmacokinetic simulation. Plus: acquisitions in drug discovery services and partnerships for data analysis, single cell analysis, machine learning, and more.


Certara has released version 20 of its Simcyp Physiologically-based Pharmacokinetic (PBPK) Simulator platform. Simcyp PBPK Simulator version 20 offers new and enhanced models for maternal health, such as assessing drug performance during pregnancy and lactation. It also automates the assessment of virtual bioequivalence to attain biowaivers and analyzes drugs delivered via long-acting injectable delivery. Additional upgrades have been made to the Simcyp PBPK Simulator’s animal, liver, absorption, and skin models. Press release

X-Chem has acquired IntelliSyn, a Montreal-based drug discovery services company and its US-based sister company, AviSyn. The transaction will enable the company to offer a complete, seamless solution for screening, hit validation and lead optimization on existing and new markets. Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed. Leveraging a proprietary DEX platform with libraries containing over 200 billion small molecules, X-Chem discovers new drug leads for biopharma clients. IntelliSyn’s services will complement X-Chem’s service offering as an additional downstream part of the drug discovery process, primarily in the field of medicinal chemistry, custom synthesis and scale-up process chemistry, supporting lead optimization through candidate identification. IntelliSyn’s Founder and CEO Jeffrey Albert will join the X-Chem management team. Press release.

Benchling has launched the Benchling Validated Cloud, which provides a dedicated environment to support the regulated work done in the later stages of life science product development. Benchling Validated Cloud offers life sciences companies a comprehensive solution to connect key data and insights from Research with Development workflows so products can move more efficiently from scientific discovery to market readiness. Research teams can leverage Benchling’s widely adopted applications for molecular design, registration, and experimentation. Development teams can advance programs using the same solution, although within a secure, compliant, trusted environment that can withstand the rigors of regulatory validation. Press release

Protein Metrics (Cupertino, CA) and MOBILion Systems (Chadds Ford, PA) have announced their strategic partnership to provide data analysis modules for Protein Metrics’ Byos software suite that work exclusively with MOBILion’s High-Resolution Ion Mobility (HRIM) Mass Spectrometry (MS) System. Combining best in class data analysis with the fastest, highest resolution analysis of multiple Critical Quality Attributes (CQA) to accelerate biotherapeutic drug development and enhance characterization capabilities that affect product quality, safety, and efficacy. MOBILion’s HRIM product addresses deficiencies in current biopharmaceutical characterization workflows that rely on Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (LC- MS). Protein Metrics' Byos Platform enables researchers to move from raw data files to report in just minutes, with the click of a mouse. The union of both platforms delivers on the promise of eliminating impediments to identifying and characterizing CQAs with the reliability, repeatability and speed required in modern biopharmaceutical organizations developing more complex protein therapeutics. Press release.

10x Genomics and PICI are partnering to accelerate the pace of research in immuno-oncology by promoting collaborative research using single cell analysis. This partnership attempts to marry the transformative power of 10x Genomics technology with PICI’s track record of mobilizing multidisciplinary teams to tackle notoriously challenging questions. The partnership enables deep scientific collaboration between PICI investigators and 10x Genomics scientists around fundamental questions in immuno-oncology. Inaugural collaborations are underway this year with co-investigators from Stanford University, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and UCLA. Press release.

The Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health at MIT has marked the first step in a long-term strategic collaboration with Sanofi. The Jameel Clinic and Sanofi pharmaceutical research teams will collaborate on the development and application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities to revolutionize healthcare and advance impactful and effective drug discovery and development. This new partnership is the stepping stone toward larger collaborations with the pharma giant, with the intention of expanding the scope to other teams within the corporation to achieve even greater results. The collaboration will provide Sanofi with access to more than 50 principal investigators and researchers across MIT and will leverage the combined experience of both organizations to evolve innovation within healthcare, democratize access to state-of-the-art healthcare technologies around the globe, and advance closely aligned visions of a healthier world and shared commitment to impact. Press release.

EpiVario has entered into an option agreement with the University of Pennsylvania for an epigenetic marker that could potentially be targeted to develop drug treatments for early-stage Alzheimer's disease therapy. Under the terms of the agreement, EpiVario holds the first option to negotiate an exclusive license agreement for this Penn-owned technology, which was featured in a September 2020 study published by Nature Genetics. The study suggested that a reconfiguration of the epigenomic landscape occurs with Alzheimer’s disease, with certain marks impacting disease pathways by disrupting feedback loops between genes and chromatin. Over the next year, EpiVario will seek to identify modulators that could potentially limit the activity of these epigenetic regulators to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to entering into the option agreement with Penn, EpiVario has also announced that it has closed its Seed Funding round with a new investment of $112,500, bringing the total outside investment to $717,000. The additional funds will be used to advance the Company’s addiction therapy research, as well as explore endeavors in the area of memory-related disorders. Press release.

The Pistoia Alliance has launched its revised President’s Startup Challenge. Building on the success of the previous six years, 2021 will see the annual Challenge not just fund startups working to transform R&D and healthcare innovation but support and nurture them long-term with a collaborative ecosystem to foster such innovation. The Challenge will comprise of two pitch finals taking place at the Alliance’s annual conferences: the Ideas Showcase in April for startups less than a year old, and a further final in October for startups between one and three years old. 2021 winners will receive $20,000 each, along with access to the Pistoia Alliance’s member network, judging network, and support from the new startup ecosystem. This will comprise of boot camp courses, long term mentoring and networking with industry professionals, and access to new ideas generation partnerships such as hackathons and accelerators. The remaining finalists will each receive $5,000 towards the further advancement of their solutions. Press release

Molecular Devices has launched its next-generation, high-content imaging system. The ImageXpress Confocal High-Content Imaging System is designed to help researchers advance phenotypic screening of 3-D organoid models. The ImageXpress Confocal system offers up to double the throughput speed for 3D organoids and spheroids while helping the scientific community overcome roadblocks when working with complex cell models. Notably it offers increased multiplexing flexibility due to high-performance laser excitation with seven laser lines and eight filter combinations; more accurate and reproducible image analysis enabled by new dual micro lens spinning disk confocal technology with enhanced field uniformity; greater image resolution and sensitivity with up to 4X increase in signal leading to lower exposure times with automated water immersion objective technology; and improved accuracy and robustness of high-content image analysis with machine learning through IN Carta Image Analysis Software. Press release.

VAST Data has announced a new reference architecture based on NVIDIA DGXTM A100 systems and VAST Data’s Universal Storage platform. This reference architecture is designed to significantly increase storage performance for AI use cases such as large-scale training of conversational AI models and petabyte-scale data analytics. Jointly designed, built, and tested by NVIDIA and VAST Data, the reference architecture eliminates the guesswork of building a solution from the ground up by providing enterprises with a turnkey petabyte-scale AI infrastructure solution that maximizes performance without adding needless cost and complexity. Built on VAST Data’s recently released LightSpeed platform and NVIDIA’s universal AI system, DGX A100, the architecture leverages VAST’s unique capabilities such as NFS-over-RDMA, NFS Multipath, and support for NVIDIA GPUDirect Storage as well as a converged fabric design. The joint reference architecture delivers more than 140GB/s of throughput for both GPU-intensive and storage-intensive AI workloads. Press release.

Thermo Fisher’s Invitrogen Intact Virus Precipitation Reagent and Dynabeads Intact Virus Enrichment Kits are optimized to isolate intact SARS-CoV-2 virus particles such as infectious virus, inactivated virus or virus like particles (VLPs). While virus cultures are often required to obtain sufficient virus yield, long isolation times can slow down sample analysis. Thermo Fisher’s Intact Virus Precipitation Reagent purifies intact SARS-CoV-2 virus from large, dilute samples in only three steps and in less than three hours, while the Dynabeads Intact Virus Enrichment Kits automate virus sample purification for high-throughput enrichment in less than 20 minutes. The Dynabeads Intact Virus Enrichment Kits can be used in combination with any of the Kingfisher family of instruments. Press release.

Optibrium has announced the newest version of StarDrop, a comprehensive software platform for small molecule design, optimization and data analysis. The new release, StarDrop 7.0, further extends the software’s compound design strategies, provides enhanced workflows, and seamlessly connects with Optibrium’s Cerella platform, delivering unique Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities to drug discovery scientists. Reaction-based Library Enumeration (RBE) enables chemists to easily enumerate compound libraries and explore optimization strategies. As a new feature of StarDrop 7.0, RBE delivers a highly-flexible and user-friendly environment to generate new molecules, by applying tractable, robust chemical reactions and linking directly with in-house and commercial building block libraries. Combined with StarDrop’s multi-parameter optimization capabilities, this enables medicinal chemists to target high-quality and synthetically accessible compounds. Press release

Thermo Fisher has completed the acquisition of Henogen S.A., Groupe Novasep SAS (Novasep)’s viral vector manufacturing business in Belgium for approximately €725 million in cash. Novasep’s viral vector manufacturing business provides contract manufacturing services for vaccines and therapies to biotechnology companies and large biopharma customers. With two locations in Seneffe and Gosselies, Belgium, Novasep’s viral vector business offers more than 7,000 square meters of state-of-the-art clinical and commercial manufacturing capacity. Founded more than 20 years ago, the business has approximately 400 employees with substantial operational and technical expertise in a broad range of viral vector classes and estimated 2020 revenue of €80 million (or approximately $95 million). Press release

Charles River Laboratories has entered into a strategic partnership with JADE Biomedical (JADE), a provider of end-to-end quality management services for the biopharmaceutical industry. The partnership will expand Charles River’s biologics testing capabilities geographically and help to accommodate demand for biologics therapeutics, especially cell and gene therapies, reaffirming the company’s commitment as a global development partner. This strategic relationship will also enable JADE to expand their current global Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) product testing operations in Shanghai into a second facility and further build upon its current offering of comprehensive biologics quality management and testing services. JADE’s deep understanding of global trends and the local environment, and its infrastructure designed to support clients of all sizes—from local start-ups to global organizations—makes it a highly valuable addition to Charles River’s network. The addition of a second testing facility, which will come online later this year, will provide additional capacity to better support clients’ growing needs. The new facility will offer GMP and Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) services to clients. Press release.

Paradigm4 has signed an agreement with 54gene to allow 54gene to use Paradigm4’s REVEAL Biobank app to explore, characterize and query the growing repository of data that constitutes 54gene’s pioneering African Health Information Ecosystem, which is a highly curated, unique data source of clinical, phenotypic and genetic information from which insights can be generated that lead to new treatments and diagnostics. 54gene is collaborating with researchers on the African continent to include the world’s most genetically diverse population in global genomics research that can be used to power drug discoveries and derive therapeutic insights in healthcare for the benefit of all populations. The REVEAL Biobank app that 54gene will use is built on top of Paradigm4’s novel computational database engine, SciDB, which is purpose-built to handle large-scale heterogeneous scientific data. The REVEAL Biobank provides researchers with an easy-to-use way to access their high-resolution, multi-dimensional and multi-attribute data. Users can fluidly combine diverse data sources like genotypic, phenotypic, biomedical imaging, and health records for cross-validation and enrichment. The app is also optimized for scalable advanced analytics and machine learning. Press release

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has launched a new center for psychedelics research. The Center for Psychedelic Psychotherapy and Trauma Research pursues a multipronged clinical and research approach to discovering novel and more efficacious therapies for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and other stress-related conditions in the veteran and civilian population. The Center will focus on studying MDMA, psilocybin, and other psychedelic compounds. MDMA, the psychoactive drug sometimes referred to as ecstasy, has the potential to become a powerful tool in the treatment of PTSD. In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration designated MDMA-assisted psychotherapy as a breakthrough therapy. Although MDMA itself is not yet approved for clinical use, Phase III trials are underway, and expanded access status to the treatment was recently granted. Press release.