Scottish Life Science firm Biopta expands

The drug testing firm is to significantly expand its research and development capabilities

A Glasgow-based life science firm that assists global pharmaceutical companies with the development of new drugs is to significantly expand its research and development capabilities and call for the greater use of human tissues in drug testing after securing its second round of investment.

Biopta Ltd, which was spun-out from Glasgow Caledonian University in 2002, has secured in excess of £265,000 in funding from Braveheart Investment Group, TRI Cap and the Scottish Co-Investment Fund and will use the investment to develop its unique human tissue testing techniques.

The company uses donated, residual human tissue collected from surgery to conduct non-clinical trials on new drugs. Testing of tissues such as skin removed during cosmetic procedures is seen to be increasingly valuable in the development of new drugs. Biopta is currently working with eight of the top 10 major pharmaceutical companies on human tissue research.

There is a high rate of new drug failure, that according to Biopta, can be attributed in part to an over-reliance on animal testing. Many companies are now turning to Biopta’s human tissue testing techniques that can bridge the gap between animal and human testing and prove vital in developing safe and effective medicines more quickly.

Biopta has helped many of its clients halt the development of drugs at an early stage by demonstrating they are ineffective or highlighting potential safety concerns, and in doing so has saved its clients hundreds of millions of dollars in development costs.

Dr David Bunton, CEO and co-founder of Biopta, said: 'Our services are part of a growing trend towards the outsourcing of non-clinical research in the pharmaceutical industry.

'Many companies will simply not allow products to enter full development until they have data generated from human tissue studies and this is where Biopta can help.'

Biopta completed its last round of investment in December 2008 when it secured £900,000 from the same group of investors, and has since concentrated a lot of its efforts on establishing a clinical network to provide ethically-donated human tissues.

Biopta also aims to use part of the recent investment to raise awareness, in both the medical and political arenas, of the need for greater use of human tissues.

'We hope to build on recent activities to bring the development of safer medicines and the availability of human tissue to the forefront of public debate, as much more can be done to make tissues widely available to all medical researchers,' said Bunton.

Dr Sarah Lynagh, head of r&d at Biopta, added: 'In 2009, with the support of our constituency MP Jo Swinson, we co-organised a conference at the House of Lords to discuss ways in which greater access to human tissues could be achieved. As a result, a working party consisting of key figures from the NHS, industry and academia was formed, which is now recommending that all patients be given the opportunity to donate their tissues to medical research.

'With over 700,000 surgical procedures carried out in the UK each year, there is no shortage of tissue for research, but only around 1-2% of specimens are actually made available. If one considers that around three million animals are used in experiments each year, there is the potential for human tissues to become a routine part of the development of every drug.'

Biopta’s services include tests using its proprietary PM-1 instrument, which was developed using technology spun-out from the Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University. The patented technology allows automated analysis of the behaviour of living tissues as they respond to test drugs and was developed in collaboration with Wideblue Ltd in Dumbarton.