Since our inception in 2002, BellBrook’s mission has been to accelerate drug discovery by providing truly enabling high throughput screening tools for protein targets. Our flagship Transcreener® high throughput screening (HTS) assays have been used by hundreds of pharmaceutical and biotech companies, CROs and academic laboratories around the world to develop more effective drugs for treating cancer and other debilitating diseases. And we are just getting started.
Dramatic changes in the drug discovery landscape over the past several years have created the opportunity for BellBrook to play a more direct role in the development of life-saving drugs. Owing to a strategic move away from conducting early-stage drug discovery in-house, pharmaceutical companies are relying increasingly on in-licensing of preclinical assets – lead drug molecules that have not yet been tested in humans – to fill their product pipelines.
The robust demand for preclinical lead molecules is a compelling opportunity for BellBrook. To meet the demand, we are leveraging our assay development and lead discovery expertise to fuel a proprietary platform for advancing lead molecules to proof of concept. And instead of a one-time-at-bat business model typical of early-stage therapeutics companies, we are building a replenishable platform that will allow us to pursue multiple lead discovery programs in parallel and to turn the crank repeatedly.
Our most advanced program is a good example of how we have combined our assay development and lead discovery expertise with domain expertise in biology to get a head start on a first-in-class lead molecule for a target that is in the sights of at least a half-dozen pharma companies.
Cyclic GAMP synthase (cGAS) is a recently discovered enzyme that is rapidly emerging as a master regulator of the immune system and thus as a compelling therapeutic target for debilitating autoimmune diseases, including lupus, as well as for cancer immunotherapy. However, the methods for screening for cGAS inhibitors were cumbersome and expensive enough to keep most companies from pursuing it. We made the case to NIH and, with their generous funding, developed a Trasncreener assay for cGAS and used it to identify novel inhibitors. We expect to complete hit-to-lead for our two most promising chemotypes and begin testing them in mouse autoimmune models in 2019. (In keeping with our original mission, we also plan to commercialize the cGAS HTS assay in 2019, to enable cGAS discovery efforts by others.)
We are using the same underlying assay technology to develop a companion diagnostic assay for cGAS, in an NIH-funded collaboration with Dr. Keith Elkon (University of Washington, Seattle), who has pioneered studies implicating cGAS as a therapeutic target for autoimmune disease. By enabling clinical researchers to identify which patients are most likely to respond to a drug that targets cGAS, the companion diagnostic will allow smaller, more targeted clinical trials that clearly demonstrate the therapeutic value of the drug, thereby reducing development costs and making FDA approval more likely.
Like many of our customers in the drug discovery community, we are optimists, who believe that the right combination of creativity, integrity, teamwork, and focus can produce life-saving new therapies. By adhering to our core goal of focusing on ‘truly enabling’ screening tools, we have built a profitable company with a small, dedicated group of outstanding employees, and are now making the transition to preclinical drug discovery. Most importantly, we are passionate and committed about continuing to make a real and positive impact on human health.
Robert G. Lowery
President & CEO
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