Leiden-based biotechnology company OcellO has entered into a strategic partnership with TomTom founder and philanthropist Pieter Geelen. The business intends to to further develop its biological mapping technology and fund the next stage of growth in its drug discovery screening services.
Leiden-based biotechnology company OcellO has entered into a strategic partnership with TomTom founder and philanthropist Pieter Geelen to further develop its biological ‘mapping’ technology and fund the next stage of growth in its drug discovery screening services.
OcellO has developed an automated system for screening and characterising potential medicines in human tissues. Their 3D cell models closely simulate human tissues, for example, kidney cells actually transport water and salts, and breast cells produce milk proteins. Crucially, OcellO’s disease models also replicate the modifications to cell behaviour that can occur in human disease, such as cancer cells which invade their surroundings. Tests then provide more realistic indications of how drugs will behave in patients. Using proprietary imaging and analysis software, OcellO creates digital 3D reconstructions of the tissues, extracting clinically relevant measurements to ‘map’ the biological landscape. The technology analyzes almost 1000 different features, sub-classifying compounds and selecting those with the most favourable response profiles. Thousands of compounds can be processed in parallel.
Pieter Geelen has previously worked with OcellO in an advisory role, lending his technological expertise and experience to help build this promising technology into a successful business. His €500.000 investment now allows OcellO to keep pace with their expanding operations.
OcellO’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Leo Price, commented: “This is a fantastic partnership. We are very excited by the input that Pieter can have in further developing OcellO’s technology and helping establish our position as a market leader. Conventional screening tends to assess very simple indicators, like the ability to block cell growth. By measuring more clinically relevant biology and mapping tissue phenotypes to improve the prediction of drug responses, OcellO reduces the dependence on animal experiments to select the best drugs, saving time and resources for both small biotech and big pharma companies.”
Mr Geelen added: “I have not invested in other companies since I founded TomTom twenty years ago. Most of my funds are channelled through my charity, the Turing Foundation. However, technology – especially biotech – always had my interest. In OcellO I recognise not just an impressive technology but also the same enthusiasm, drive and potential that I remember from the early days of TomTom. Other rapid advances in biotech notwithstanding, OcellO is bridging a gap in the information that is gathered about drugs before progressing to expensive animal tests or the even more expensive clinical trials in humans. OcellO does this by combining very realistic human cell models with advanced data acquisition and data interpretation technology. Given the importance of drug development in our lives, OcellO has excellent growth potential. What I like personally isn’t just that OcellO is offering cutting-edge technology, but that we have the capacity to form strategic partnerships with other innovative drug discovery companies, and thus play a part in the breakthroughs that can result in new cures for patients.”
Notes for Editors:
Pieter Geelen is one of the four original co-founders and a current full-time director of the satellite navigation company TomTom. In 2006, he set up the Turing Foundation, a charity based in Amsterdam. He remains an active member of the OcellO advisory board.
OcellO is an innovative biotech company delivering contract drug discovery research services that can significantly improve the efficiency of lead development. OcellO’s clinically-relevant in vitro human micro-tissue models can be used for the screening and profiling of small molecules and biologics. The analysis of these models, many of which use patient material, is enabled by OcellO’s unique high throughput 3D imaging and phenotypic profiling technology. As well as providing measurements of cell growth and viability, OcellO’s profiling allows the measurement of more complex biology that better correlates with clinical endpoints. Compounds with the optimum therapeutic profile or optimum target specificity profile can be identified at early stage to enable a better ranking of drug candidates to progress through the development pipeline.