September 2010 Newsletter

Welcome to our first newsletter!

In this first issue we look at some new technologies for computational chemists and summarise what happened at the May UK QSAR Group meeting in Scotland.

We also consider the intellectual property issues raised by Craig Venter’s new synthetic life form and touch on the challenges of being a service provider in todays rapidly changing market place.

And last but not least, Julie Warneck tells us how project management can help you get fit for a good cause!

CCS & Molcode: ADMET & Target Affinity Prediction

CCS has teamed up with Molcode, who are based in Estonia, and have developed an array of statistical models against a wide range of endpoints. These include some ADMET models for properties such as blood-brain barrier penetration, hERG inhibition, human serum albumin binding and acute tox effects, as well as pharmacologically-relevant target affinity predictions for targets such as Adenosine A3 receptor, CDK, CXCR3 and 5HT-1a. The full range of endpoints can be viewed via the CCS website (

Following the legislative changes to allow the use of certain in-silico models to comply with OECD guidelines, Molcode also offer OECD/ECHA compliant HPCV and REACH endpoints against 4600+ HPCV and 20+ REACH substances. Such reports can be accessed via the CCS website at

Molcode have been developing some proprietary reverse QSAR methodology whereby their tools can identify molecules which can satisfy a number of specified objectives, such as affinity level against a given target, together with certain ADME property limits. For further information, please contact Susan Boyd at

UK QSAR Group Meeting, Spring 2010

CCS recently attended the Spring meeting of the UK QSAR Group at Merck, Newhouse. The meeting was well-attended, despite the recent developments in the pharmaceutical industry.

The meeting opened on the Tuesday evening with a typically flamboyant presentation from Professor Andrew Hopkins of the University of Dundee. Andrew drew parallels between the current “Pharmageddon” situation we are facing to the plight of the steel industry in the 1980s. He suggested that – as in the case of the steel manufacturers – our key challenges will be to improve efficiency and effectiveness in our computational methodology.

The main meeting itself included an interesting talk from Graeme Milligan on the pharmacology of Free fatty Acid 2, an insight into the novel GPCR technology being developed by Heptares, some new web-accessible tools from Malcolm Walkinshaw’s group at Edinburgh for identifying binding sites on proteins (, and a searchable database of over 5 million commercial compounds (, and a modified version of Pareto ranking by Willem van Hoorn from his time at Pfizer.

Who owns Craig Venter’s synthetic life form?

The recent announcement by genetic entrepreneur Craig Venter and his team that they have built the genome of a bacterium from scratch and incorporated it into a cell to make “the world’s first synthetic life form” has reopened the debate about who owns a biological discovery.

Dr Venter became a controversial figure in the 1990s when he pitted his former company, Celera Genomics, against the publicly funded effort to sequence the human genome, the Human Genome Project. Venter had already applied for patents on more than 300 genes, raising concerns that the company might claim intellectual rights to the building blocks of life.

The field of biotechnology became prominent in 1997 with the first successful cloning of a sheep named Dolly, and developments have continued at an ever-increasing pace since then including the mapping of the human genome. Nowadays almost anyone has an opinion on these topics and they have generated many controversies in the fields of ethics, morality, public safety and not least Intellectual property. This is largely due to the huge potential market for products arising from Biotechnology research as it impacts food production and many sectors of Industry throughout the world.

The question remains – who owns inventions such as Craig Venter’s? Who should control the intellectual property, and should governments be able to exercise any control over these inventions for the good of all? Without a clear view on the Intellectual Property pertaining to this vast research area the answers to these questions may remain unresolved for some time to come. If you need advice about protecting a discovery or invention, or just want to explore what the options are then please contact Neil Walden via

Who’s Up & Who’s Down in Service Provision

In today’s competitive world of service provision to the biopharma market it is imperative to stay on top of market developments and continue to provide services relevant to your clients. Spotting opportunities in the market to exploit and making the right investments is critical to success.

One example of recent success is CMO Almac Pharma Services who have recently completed a major lab expansion at Craigavon, Northern Ireland. The company says this new laboratory capacity at its HQ will help meet growing demand for method development, validation and transfer.

The three-storey, 30,000 sqft expansion, which is part of a $9m (€10.2m) investment project that began last year , has enabled Almac to increase its analytical chemistry workforce to 80 employees.

Graeme McBurney unit president explained that: “Increased client demand for our integrated services, from product development to commercial supply, has resulted in the strategic decision to make this investment and expansion.” The Northern Irish contract manufacturing organisation (CMO) is also constructing a $112m (€78.6m) plant in Pennsylvania in the US, which is on schedule to complete this summer.

But for as many success stories we hear about there is an equal number of disappointments and failures.

One such recent case is US contract pharmaceutical developer Azopharma who have not yet confirmed or denied industry rumours that it has gone bankrupt.

According to numerous posts on the Topix message board, the Florida-headquartered company has closed its doors for the last time, sending home its workforce of more than 100 employees.

The take home message from both these stories is always check the security of your service provider before placing projects which may be of critical importance to your business. If you would like advice on outsourcing chemistry or CMC projects contact Andrea Walmsley at

Getting fit for a good cause

Julie Warneck, our resident preclinical and toxicology consultant, recently completed the Race for Life in Cambridge. Inspired by her sister’s battle with breast cancer, and aiming to get fit and raise money to support Cancer Research UK, Julie put on her running shoes for the first time in nearly 30 years to train for the 5K run.

Once a Project Manager, always a Project Manager, so falling short of developing a Gantt chart to plan the training, a target was set (complete the course in 30 minutes (+/- 10%)), a detailed schedule was drawn up (to train 3 times per week) and progress monitored at the end of each weekly session. Times were slow in the initial stages, as the team learned to work together (the legs and lungs weren’t quite prepared for what the brain was aiming at…), but once the project was up and running, the team gelled and weekly milestones were met. As the deadline approached, extra hours were committed to achieving the target. The team was on track.

The day arrived, and what a day. Not a cloud in the sky, 8000 women in pink packed onto Parkers Piece and many more well-wishers lining the route through the historic streets of Cambridge. The atmosphere was emotional and inspiring, the runners and walkers sharing a common cause; most having personal reasons for taking part, having been touched by cancer in some way. Julie and her sister achieved their goal, completing the course together on target in 32 minutes, in spite of the heat.

Many things can be achieved with a little planning, commitment and some motivation to succeed. A message that applies equally to training for the 5K Race for Life, or in directing pharmaceutical drug development to beat cancer.

If you would like advice on pre-clinical development strategies or outsourcing, contact Julie Warneck.

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