Eurofins Discovery is a CRO with a range of expertise in drug discovery. Christina Shasserre, Senior VP spoke to Lu Rahman about some of the company’s current COVID-related work as well as offering insight into the drug discovery landscape.
LR: Are you able to share some of Eurofins Discovery’s recent projects?
CS: As we work with the top pharma customers and large and small biotechs, we are currently working on a number of projects. We are collaborating with clients on integrated programs where we assist them with guidance, project management, services, and data analysis. Included in these projects are those that focus on COVID-19 drug discovery and development. Eurofins Discovery is supporting drug discoverers in the design and in vitro pharmacological characterisation of safe and effective therapeutically active drugs directed against SARS-CoV infection and associated respiratory syndromes.
Some clients are also investigating new therapeutically promising targets (ex. bradykinin) involved in SARS-induced respiratory symptoms to reduce morbidity. Our Eurofins CRO partners, like Eurofins Biopharma Product Testing and other major CROs are working with Eurofins DiscoverX Products of ready-to-use cell-based bioassays for potency testing of marketed biologics such as sargramostim, tocilizumab, anakinra, and adalimumab, as well as cell lines for testing drugs targeting C5AR1, S1Ps, IL-2R etc.
Our scientists are also actively developing a novel cell-based assay platform for testing neutralising antibodies that block viral entry into the target cells or small molecules that inhibit Transmembrane protease, serine 2 (TMPRSS2), a key protein reported to impact viral entry. This innovative approach utilises stable cell lines that express the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE2) and/or TMPRSS2, and the pseudo-typed viral particles.
LR: COVID-19 has understandably dominated over recent months. Where do you see the opportunities for the research market?
CS: COVID brought an extreme sense of urgency to focus on discovering new therapeutics and repurposing existing drugs to treat this disease. One of the areas of research that I see coming from this serious situation is to understand how to treat patients that may have predisposed conditions that make COVID exposure life threatening. There will likely be a lot of research done in how this virus attacks immune systems, impacts inflammation responses and causes severe cases and even death in some patients. There will be a lot more to learn and this research will potentially translate to how we can treat other viral diseases.
LR: What tools and expertise are most useful to researchers to allow them to work at pace and efficiently?
CS: We understand the criticality of being efficient and providing tools to drug discovery scientists to progress their studies. With that in mind we have launched some new assays and cell lines to support a variety of drug targets and we are using technologies, like SPR for large molecule assessment and mass spectrometry for binding assays.
For many clients that do not have full in house capabilities to conduct drug discovery and development, I see our ability to support them in managing their projects through the entire drug discovery process as one of the most useful. Researchers can confidently move their molecule along the process because we deliver their data in a timely and efficient manner. Additionally, we can develop custom assays specific for their interrogation requirements, helping them to move their compound along as efficiently as possible.
LR: As a business you are focussed on pushing to the limits of excellence. How can the drug discovery and development sector use this to advance its work?
CS: Researchers can concentrate on the aspects of drug discovery which require focused exploration and depend on us to test the performance of their molecules. Performing important early research is where their expertise is critical. Our ability to efficiently assess their molecule against their drug target(s) is what we do best to advance their projects.
Christina Shasserre is the Senior Vice President of Eurofins Discovery. She has been involved in the academic research, life science, clinical diagnostics, and the CRO industries for over 30 years. Her experience and roles throughout her career range from R&D, quality, operations, marketing, business development, and senior management. Her previous corporate roles before joining Eurofins include Vysis, SigmaAldrich, Merck KGaA and Merck Millipore.
Volume 22, Issue 1 – Winter 2020/21