fundingMetrion Biosciences Ltd, the specialist ion channel CRO, has announced it is leading a consortium in receipt of a €2.2 million funding award under the Eurostars SME programme. Metrion, with partners Nanion Technologies (www.nanion.de) and the stem cell cardiomyocyte group at Leiden University Medical Center (www.lumc.nl), will use the funding to develop improved human inducible pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived cardiomyocytes and screening platforms.

The goal of the project is to develop innovative phenotypic cardiac safety assays enabling improved evaluation of the proarrhythmic risk of novel therapeutics. The project has received funding from the Eurostars-2 joint programme with co-funding from the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme and from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.

Metrion will use Nanion’s CardioExcyte96 platform, which enables simultaneous recording of cardiac cell electrical activity and contractility, to develop CiPA (Comprehensive in vitro Proarrhythmic Assay) compliant cardiac safety assays using human iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes developed at Leiden. The resulting proprietary phenotypic assays will be commercialized by Metrion and offered to customers, alongside the company’s existing CiPA-approved human cardiac ion channel panel and manual patch clamp electrophysiology capabilities.

The CiPA initiative is being sponsored by the FDA to improve the protocols for assessing proarrhythmic risk for novel therapeutics. The new initiative aims to combine screening of an expanded panel of in vitro human cardiac ion channel targets (including hERG) with computer modelling to assess the overall risk of new chemical entities to induce arrhythmia in human cardiac cells.

The in vitro screening data and in silico predictions will be validated using translational assays employing human iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes. This approach should enhance the accuracy with which new drugs are evaluated for proarrhythmic risk and allow earlier detection of cardiac safety issues.

The CiPA initiative may also prevent the exclusion of potentially useful therapeutics as well as enabling the repurposing of previous drug candidates sidelined solely as a result of their in vitro hERG liability. The more predictive evaluation of proarrhythmic risk may also mitigate the requirement to perform costly Thorough QT studies in the clinic.

Dr Marc Rogers, CSO of Metrion Biosciences, commented: “We are delighted to be working alongside leading experts in stem cell cardiomyocytes and screening platform technologies to develop these new assay capabilities. This project supports Metrion’s goal of becoming a leading CRO provider in the cardiac safety screening market, enabling customers to access all three CiPA-related services through one provider.”