Covance has integrated its drug discovery capabilities and a range of translational tools under one umbrella, reinforcing its credentials as a strategic partner with a portfolio of services designed to shadow the drug development efforts of its clients.

The new Discovery & Translational Services group will offer “a depth and breadth of drug discovery and biomarker services that in unmatched in the CRO industry”, claims the US-based contract research organisation.

The group brings together Covance’s discovery services, antibody products and immunology services, Biomarker Centre of Excellence and Genomics Laboratory under the direction of Deborah Tanner, corporate senior vice president at Covance, president of the CRO’s Central Laboratory Services unit and president, Discovery & Translational Services.

“By uniting our discovery and translational services under one operating umbrella we can better leverage current capabilities, foster greater scientific and technical collaboration, and ultimately provide greater value to our clients through a portfolio of services that parallel their drug development model,” Tanner said.

Jonathan Koch has been appointed vice president and general manager, Discovery & Translational Services. He was previously vice president and general manager for Covance’s US campus in Greenfield, Indiana, where the CRO set up a Biomarker Center of Excellence last year.

Covance’s initiative also capitalises on its minority stake in Caprion Proteomics and its alliance with Rules-Based Medicine, the CRO noted.

Raising its game

The last year and a half has seen a flurry of activity to beef up Covance’s early-stage R&D capabilities and to access translational tools such as biomarkers, genomics, proteomics and imaging technology, as well as discovery services like in vivo pharmacology and early safety and efficacy testing.

Covance raised its game significantly in the biomarkers field by taking a minority stake in Canadian proteomics specialist Caprion in December 2008. The US company acts as the exclusive CRO distributor for Caprion’s proteomic biomarker services and Caprion as Covance’s exclusive proteomic discovery provider.

Announcing the agreement, Covance said biomarkers were expected to be a standard component of drug development “for any novel candidate” within 10 years.

In November 2009, the company backed up that claim by signing a biomarker alliance and services agreement with testing laboratory Rules-Based Medicine (RBM). Covance uses RBM as an exclusive third-party provider of multiplexed protein biomarker testing services, while serving as RBM’s exclusive referral source for laboratory testing services.

The previous July, Covance had signed an agreement with Merck & Co for the supply of genomic analysis services that included acquiring Merck’s Gene Expression Laboratory in Seattle, US. For its part, Merck committed to a five-year, US$145 million contract to purchase genomic analysis services from Covance.

Full spectrum

“Increasingly our clients are looking for drug development companies that can provide a full spectrum of services and expertise from early drug discovery through late-stage clinical trials and post-marketing surveillance,” said Joe Herring, chairman and chief executive officer of Covance.

The company now has “a comprehensive range of integrated services across the drug R&D continuum that can help clients make faster and more effective decisions about their portfolios”, he added.