Steven van Helden, CTO
Today’s pharmaceutical industry is embracing open innovation strategy by partnering with academia to maximize research and accelerate the drug discovery process. As a result, academia is witnessing a paradigm shift where they not only build their knowledge of biological targets but also have access to good starting points that lead to the development of new and effective drugs. Pivot Park Screening Centre (PPSC), established in 2012, has been instrumental in helping the academia, startups, and large pharma companies to translate their ideas into right starting point molecules. They have an extensive pharma experience owing to their parent company Organon established in 1923. Today, PPSC accelerates the drug discovery programs through their services that include ultra High Throughput Screening (uHTS), assay development, compound library, hit triaging, and lab automation services. The company performs ultra High Throughput Screening on large libraries (tens of thousands to over a million samples) and biological profiling on smaller compound sets.
Based out of Oss, Netherlands, PPSC offers its clients a state-of-the-art screening facility that includes advanced robotic systems, instrumentation for biological profiling, and a collection of 300,000 high-quality drug-like compounds. Access to quality resources enables academia, start-ups, and large pharma companies to translate their research ideas into actual tool molecules and leads.
In the process to find substantial lead candidates for drug development, PPSC has a well-defined client engagement strategy to maximize the project outcomes in the form of accurate findings. At the outset, they discuss the client’s idea, and if the concept is mature enough, they right away perform assay development, and low, medium, or ultra High Throughput Screening depending on the client’s requirement.
However, if the client’s idea lacks clarity, they work with the client to translate their idea into more substantial research. They conduct the feasibility test to replicate the actual process that the client had done in their lab for better results. Consequently, they screen the research idea with the compounds present in their libraries; or they can also work on the compounds provided by the pharmaceutical companies/ universities. As an expert in both target-based screening and phenotypic screening, they can apply either of them during the testing based on the requirement.
“Although a mid-size company, we have rich pharma expertise and high-class facility that enables us to perform at par with large pharma companies,” says Steven van Helden, CTO at PPSC. The company has achieved a milestone of conducting 100th screening in 2018, which translates to roughly 25 targets a year. The company’s growth has soared with the European Commission acknowledging PPSC’s expertise in the drug discovery field and appointing them as the central screening site for European Lead Factory (ELF) [a public-private partnership that aims to accelerate early drug discovery in Europe, an initiative of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI)]. Besides the fact that this recognition enables PPSC to have excellent visibility in the market that sets them apart from other players operating in the field of high-throughput screening, ELF has also contributed significantly to the further expansion of PPSC’s expertise on Assay Development and Screening in a wide variety of therapeutic areas.
Van Helden mentions about PPSC’s value delivery to the University of Oxford, where the university was dealing with the problem of drug resistance in the field of antibiotics. The university submitted its proposal to the European Lead factory for screening. PPSC since then is working with the scientists from Oxford to perform the screening and achieve substantial hit to lead. The quality of hits has been so good that the university has received further funding to develop the compounds towards clinical testing.
PPSC aims to expand their operations to the U.S. and Japan this year and is continuously looking into further expansion of its technological capabilities. “We have recently collaborated with the University Medical Center in Maastricht, where we are helping the group of surgeons working in the field of oncology to develop groundbreaking technology and methods based on so-called organoids to deliver personalized medicine to patients,” concludes Van Helden.