Every month, MassBio spotlights a member company and the great work they’re doing to advance the life sciences industry and support the patients we serve. This month we spoke with Chris Hansis, MD, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer for BioIVT, a leading global provider of research models and value-added research services for drug discovery and development.
Tell us about your organization and your current initiatives.
BioIVT started as a biospecimens provider, specifically for blood and animal products, and then expanded to cover normal and disease-specific clinical samples such as tissues, fluids, and cells.
More recently, we’ve expanded into services. BioIVT now offers cell-based assays, ADME-Tox testing, and immunohistochemistry. We consider ourselves a world leader in providing human liver cell products, so that’s a significant part of our business. BioIVT offers high quality liver cells, LIVERPOOL® hepatocytes, and plateable cells, which are used for ADME-Tox testing. We also perform those services in-house.
Our newer acquisitions have further broadened our portfolio. With the addition of Qualyst Transporter Solutions and Ascendance Biotechnology, we can now characterize, culture and deliver cells that can be maintained for extended periods of time in culture, making them more adaptable for various applications.
On the biospecimen side, with our Asterand Bioscience acquisition, we now have a large inventory of more than 175,000 tissues in storage and 200 institutional review board (IRB-) approved sites worldwide from which to collect samples. We also have about 20,000 biofluids.
My previous company, TransCell Science, was acquired by BioIVT just over a year ago, and we specialized in cell-based assays, so I brought that expertise to the company.
How does your organization’s activities help patients now and into the future?
BioIVT helps to develop new drugs and diagnostic tests that enable diseases to be detected earlier. We supply pharmaceutical customers with biological specimens and also perform services such as drug efficacy or ADME-Tox testing to advance their research pipelines.
We are establishing quality standards for the industry, setting ethical research standards for the collection of biological material.
In addition, we are helping to reduce animal testing by offering in vitro systems, tests which can be performed in the laboratory, as alternatives.
We really strive to be a research partner for our customers as opposed to being just a materials provider. We now have 22 staff members with PhDs at BioIVT who can support a variety of life science research programs.
We engage in very advanced projects, where we do not just execute a protocol but develop projects, act as the project manager, and move them forward for the customer. Sometimes a significant amount of research has to be done in house to set those projects up and make sure that technologies are working.
We have quite a few research collaborations that produce published papers and posters. We are very motivated to produce and share knowledge that moves the industry forward.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the life sciences industry today, and what’s your advice for overcoming it?
The life science industry is changing rapidly right now. Personalized medicine is taking it in a totally new direction, requiring meaningful data for use in clinical practice.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a number of therapies that target a biomarker rather than a particular disease, such as ovarian cancer. Those biomarkers can be found and targeted in several different diseases.
BioIVT is helping to identify some of those biomarkers. We are generating more data both on the samples we already have in stock and those we are collecting. That information is in high demand and we are determining how we can provide it to customers in the most useful and efficient way for them to analyze and use for downstream applications.
We also want to assist with benchmarking, providing a biomarker baseline for a particular tissue so that normal and diseased tissue can be compared.
What’s next for your organization / what are you focused on in the coming year?
In line with our new BioIVT company brand and Elevating Science tagline, we strive to advance customers’ research and support them in gathering more in vivo relevant data.
Large pharmaceutical companies are cutting back on their R&D capabilities and increasingly relying on outsourcing. They want to work with a few trusted partners that can provide multiple services. That is the need that we are trying to address.
BioIVT puts great emphasis on quality control. We regularly examine how our samples are handled, shipped and characterized, making sure that we always deliver top quality biospecimens and services.
We also visit customers frequently to hear first-hand what they need.
We work with all types of customers – virtual startups, academic laboratories, government entities like the NIH and FDA, and hospitals – not just big pharma.
We are enabling clinical trials and inspiring researchers to tackle new projects by reducing their costs. We achieve those goals by making the drug discovery process more efficient, so fewer clinical trials fail. Also, customers don’t have to provide their own staffed facilities for a project anymore, they can just outsource it to us.
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