By Mark Terry
Discovery Life Sciences, a leading research biobank located in Los Osos, California, recently got much, much bigger via a four-company merger. Ann Dover, Discovery’s founder, president and chief executive officer, took time to speak with BioSpace about the merger and the new identity of the company.
The four companies involved in the merger are Discovery Life Sciences, Conversant Bio, Folio Bio and Phylogeny. Dover says they “have merged to create a global market leader in biospecimen analysis and procurement for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and diagnostics industries.”
The new entity will take on the Discovery Life Sciences brand, which will have scientific and consultative services along with an enormous repository of research-quality biospecimens, which are available and already processed for analysis.
Dover says, “First, it’s not an acquisition. This is a strategic merger of like-minded companies to create a market leader in biospecimen analysis and procurement in the life sciences space.”
The earlier version of Discovery was focused on the diagnostics market. Folio, Conversant and Phylogeny were all in biopharma. “Together,” Dover says, “we will bring our client researchers huge value in our vast bioanalytics capabilities. Our people have deep scientific expertise to quickly bring innovative solutions to the most complex questions.”
If that seems a bit hyperbolic, keep in mind that the new Discovery Life Sciences has more than 10 million biospecimens and a new global logistical system needed to acquire, biostore and deliver the specimens efficiently. The new Discovery Partners clinical network spans 25 countries on six continents. As a result, the biological specimens have a broad diversity of patient populations.
The new company has a focus on oncology, cardiology, neurology and infectious, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Dover says its catalog includes, “normal, suspect, and disease-state specimens, comprising rare diseases and racially and ethnically diverse exemplars.”
In particular, Dover feels that “Discovery Partners is the engine that powers our unique biospecimen collection abilities. Our Discovery Partners are the route to hundreds of thousands of patients to find the ideal attributes for the most complex studies.”
To do so, they leverage an extensive network of hospitals, academic medical centers, blood banks, clinical labs, and community-based medical practices. The use this network to identify and locate specific biospecimens their research clients need.
They are also aware of quality issues, so are ISO 9001-certified with CLIA-certified laboratories, have stringent IRB and Ethics Committee compliance, and meet all required European Union approvals and certifications. “Navigating the new personal data protection regulations (both U.S. and internationally),” Dover says, “is a core competency for us.”
Prior to the merger, Folio Bio was the country’s largest commercial biobank, located in Powell, Ohio. It had over 7 million specimens and an in-house CLIA-certified laboratory with extensive histopathology services. It also offers high-quality tissue microarrays.
Conversant Bio, located in Huntsville, Alabama, is a biobank focused on bone marrow products, blood products, tissues such as fixed-formalin paraffin embedded (FFPE) and dissociated tumor cells, and various other tissues, such as cord blood, placenta, skin, sputum and urine samples.
Phylogeny, also based in Powell, Ohio, provides genomic research services and products. This includes customized in situ hybridization services, including probe design and tissue procurement. It also offers interpretation of gene expression results across a wide range of biological systems, as well as commercial in situ detection of miRNA in specific cells.
Dover told BioSpace, “We were brought together by Water Street Healthcare Partners. They are a strategic investor focused exclusively on the healthcare industry. They have an outstanding track record of building market-leading companies in the life sciences, medical products and distribution sectors.”