Dr. Birgit Hutter-Paier, Senior Director and Head of Neuropharmacology
Neurodegeneration since long has had its own challenges in terms of finding a cure for some of the major disorders like the Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and so on. With different mechanisms and trials carried out to move ahead in this direction, companies involved in carrying out clinical research have been consistently aiming to accelerate breakthroughs in the medical space. One such organisation that has come a long way in this industry is QPS Neuropharmacology. With more than 30 years of experience in conducting POC and efficacy studies from lead finding to functional in vitro assays to transgenic and non-transgenic in vivo disease models, QPS operates as a trusted company to carry out neurodegeneration research.
The company was founded as a spin-off of an AT pharma company, which gained licensing in the early 2000s. After earning a reputation for its services for over a decade, the firm was acquired by QPS in 2012. The company thereafter witnessed an admirable growth rate of 30 percent per year and also managed to expand and offer new models for autism, depression, and anxiety. “The real boost came three years later in 2015, when QPS accommodated rare diseases as part of their models, at the behest of a client. After clearing licensing conditions, QPS attempted to study different models by experimenting on mice. Later on, once we confirmed the disease related to phenotype, we started to test compounds provided by our clients, and gradually began adding more of these orphan diseases models, as well as neurodegeneration models to our portfolio,” says Dr. Birgit Hutter-Paier, senior director and head of neuropharmacology at QPS Neuropharmacology.
Today, the global research organisation offers an extensive range of validated transgenic and non-transgenic in vivo and in vitro models for neurodegenerative and rare diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), Niemann-Pick Disease (NPC1), Gaucher Disease, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Schizophrenia among others.
QPS currently has more than 30 in-house validated in vivo models for its clients ranging from academia to big pharma and biotech companies based all across the globe.
QPS currently has more than 30 in-house validated in vivo models for clients ranging from academia to big pharma and biotech companies
“For in vivo, we offer several models for one indication and are able to suggest the best for the compounds to be tested rather than force the client into one specific but limited model,” explains Birgit. Additionally, as clients often lack knowledge about the various effects of their compounds on functional readouts, QPS assists them by running assays in vitro to check for expression levels of certain targets, alterations of biomarkers, dose-related positive effects, and also neurotoxic effects. The team at QPS is also able to go back and forth to find optimal conditions in vitro.
While associating with each of its customers, QPS involves its scientists in all discussions at the very beginning in order to learn about the needs, challenges, and already obtained results with a certain compound or strategy. This allows them to come up with a tailored approach to test a small molecule or biologic in vitro and/or in vivo. It proves beneficial while working with customers that are unsure of what exactly they want to go for.
Talking about QPS’s customer-centric approach and its ability to guide clients and suggest a study suitable for their needs, Birgit recalls the company’s association with a Northern European client. The client organisation had partnered with QPS because their long-term academic partner had left in the middle of the project. QPS helped them curate protocols and acknowledged challenges and problems in the initial experiments. This enabled the client to conjure more reliable readouts for a series of studies, following which the customer was successful in reaching the final stage in trials. In the final phase, the compound was deemed safe, and the client organisation reported significant progress.
QPS has carved a niche for its services and has positioned itself as a trusted and customer-centric contract research organisation. A testament to this is the firm’s loyal customer base, 80 percent of which are repeat clients that have worked with the company for years. “Sometimes we are more friends than business partners for our clients, which in turn aids open scientific discussions,” says Birgit.
While the COVID-19 crisis has crippled businesses worldwide, it has brought more requests for the company than ever. To fulfil these needs and further expand its portfolio, the firm’s plan for the immediate future is to expand but also to explore new test systems like the organoids sphere. According to Brigit, it could become a massive segment for the company, and they intend to collaborate with universities to move ahead in this direction. With such promising plans already carved out, the team at QPS is quite optimistic about the future.