Immuno-oncology CRO expands following record year

Aquila BioMedical, a niche preclinical contract research organisation (CRO), has expanded its laboratory space and capabilities in response to growing demand for its specialist immuno-oncology and histology services

Since forming in 2011, the CRO has built a strong reputation for supporting biotech and pharmaceutical companies’ early drug development programmes through offering specialised assays to investigate therapeutic manipulation of immune cell function.

The success of Aquila’s immuno-oncology offering has supported rapid growth of both the scientific team and laboratory space in Edinburgh’s bioincubator building. The team of 14 has more than doubled in the last year and is likely to reach 22 in 2017.

Funding from Scottish Enterprise’s Regional Selective Assistance (RSA) grant has allowed the CRO to accelerate its recruitment plans and expand through investment in people and capital equipment. Aquila has added capacity to offer assays using an IncuCyte Zoom, allowing its team to deliver insights into cellular processes, such as T cell killing of tumours via real-time quantitative live-cell analysis.

Clare Doris, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Aquila BioMedical, said: 'Since our company formed in 2011, it has been our goal to bring innovative models and a new dynamic CRO experience to biotech and pharmaceutical companies across the world. In recent years, we have strategically developed our expert immunology offering, establishing a significant presence in immuno-oncology and building services to deliver high end mechanistic biology in an area of large unmet demand.'

'This year has proven a phenomenal success. Our expert team has provided high value data to our international client base, allowing go/no-go decisions to be made earlier in the drug development process and ultimately reducing clinical attrition. As the cancer immunotherapy field is evolving rapidly, many of our clients are now seeking to understand questions about potential combination therapies and we have the assays to deliver this information,' she added.

Aquila Histoplex LLP, which specialises in histology, RNAscope and multiplex immunofluorescent staining services, has also been formally integrated into Aquila BioMedical. The division will help to address questions around biomarker and target expression in tumour tissues.

Clare continued: 'We have an exceptional team who are highly motivated by the research that we are conducting and we are excited to be advancing company growth, building in dedicated space for tissue culture, multiplex cytokine analysis, flow cytometry and PCR. The expansion also provides a new home to our histology services with space for multiple high-throughput staining robots.'

Dr Howard Marriage, co-founder and chairman at Aquila BioMedical, added: 'I am delighted to see the progress of Aquila BioMedical. Under Clare’s leadership the company has built a highly skilled biology focused scientific team delivering vital insights into client drug programmes. I am very pleased to welcome the team from Aquila Histoplex LLP into Aquila BioMedical as a new division. The advanced histology services provide clients with innovative approaches to biomarker discovery and mechanism of action from models into clinical samples.'

'Support from Scottish Enterprise has helped us further develop the company into areas of advanced biology, clearly seen as an evolving aspect of the pharma services industry. I look forward to seeing Aquila BioMedical being increasingly integrated into clients’ R&D immuno-oncology programmes,' he added.

Aquila BioMedical uses cutting-edge research to enhance drug discovery and development programmes for clients across the world, with a particular focus on immuno-oncology, immunology and multiplex histology.

Through close collaboration with clients, Aquila BioMedical offers innovative and tailored biology solutions and will continue to build new services to facilitate generation of high value mechanistic data that will inevitably result in better medicines reaching the clinic. This is all with the ultimate aim of playing a role in the development of the next generation cancer immunotherapies.