PPD has built on its late-2009 acquisition of drug discovery outsourcing company BioDuro in China by setting up a Singapore-based joint venture with Taijitu Biologics Limited (TBL) for the discovery of novel therapeutics.

The US-based contract research organisation (CRO) is investing US$25 million in BioDuro Biologics and has taken a majority stake in the joint venture. 

The new operation has been set up to develop and commercialise an innovative technology platform for the discovery of “first- and best-in-class” monoclonal antibody therapies in collaboration with TBL’s sister company MAB Discovery GmbH of Munich, Germany, PPD explained.  

Stephan Fischer, founder and co-owner of TBL and of MAB Discovery GmbH, a biotechnology R&D company focused on the discovery and development of novel monoclonal antibody (MABs) therapeutics, will sit on the BioDuro Biologics board of directors and lead development of the technology platform, which is expected to be completed by mid-2011.

The joint venture will provide drug discovery services based on this platform to global biopharmaceutical companies looking for best-in-class MABs against both novel and validated targets. 

The initiative will boost PPD’s capability to “deliver unique, highly differentiated drug discovery services for biopharmaceutical companies across the globe”, the CRO says. 

Following the spin-off of its compound partnering business, Furiex Pharmaceuticals, last year, the company incorporated discovery services and BioDuro into its Laboratory Services segment, which also includes Phase I clinical, current Good Manufacturing Practice, bioanalytical, central laboratory, and vaccines and biologics activities. 

A PPD Vaccines & Biologics Center of Excellence was launched in March 2010, capitalising on the CRO’s collaborative relationship with Merck & Co for vaccine testing and assay development. According to PPD, the technology platform to be developed by BioDuro Biologics will extend the breadth of services offered through this centre. The CRO also opened a clinical research centre for vaccines in Taizhou, China last April.

As PPD notes, the biologics market is one of the fastest growing areas of drug discovery. According to EvaluatePharma, biologics are expected to show a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7% between 2009 and 2016, compared with CAGR of 2% for the small molecules market.

PPD’s investment in the new joint venture closed in the fourth quarter of 2010 and did not have a material impact on finances for that year. It is expected to dilute 2011 earnings by around two cents per share.