Developing therapeutics for life threatening diseases such as cancer demands the expertise of CROs that are adept at following and charting preclinical/research norms. Major pharmaceutical entities and virtual biotech players with promising IPs must be able to outsource custom services that don’t fit cookie cutter protocols. They may require a good bit of assay development or piloting before settling on a final study design and need CROs that are willing to work with them to develop the assays and optimize as required. iQ Biosciences fits this bill. Hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, the birthplace of biotech, iQ Biosciences is an immunology-focused CRO which supports pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and academics, in the development of various immune therapies, such as antibodies, small molecules, and CAR Ts. One of the company’s key focus areas includes evaluating novel immuno-oncology based therapeutics, which utilize the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Their clients include teams involved in the discovery or pre-clinical stages of the drug development process and companies in the development of non-therapeutic antibodies for diagnostics.
Going the Extra Mile in Preclinical Research
“We see ourselves as a ‘Partner Research Organization’ providing strategic scientific guidance and going the distance with our clients, rather than the typical transactional only focused Contract Research Organization” says Christopher Ng, Chief Executive Officer, iQ Biosciences. For instance, the company takes the time to discuss and understand their clients’ project goals, examines their needs as expert immunologists (scouring other research and publications as needed), and outlines a series of potential experiments to help them achieve those goals. This is in contrast to merely working with their clients in a rigid fashion by stayingstrictly within the bounds of standard protocols. “We look at building long-term relationships with our clients, and have demonstrated that if we can help evaluate their therapeutics, we can help with their other programs as well,” adds Ng.
iQ Biosciences understands that clients are not always well versed in FDA regulatory guidance, especially when it comes to executing IND (Investigational New Drug) studies. Consequently, the company’s team of immunologists stays abreast of the FDA guidelines and ensures that their clients are well-informed so as to factor regulatory guidelines intotheir study designs. The company has contributed to numerous projects pertaining to INDs for the potential lifesaving therapies of tomorrow.
Client-Oriented Preclinical Research Expertise
Striving to be a nimble Partner Research Organization, iQ Biosciences focuses primarily on two areas. Firstly, the company provides specimens in the form of primary immune cells (or white blood cells) from humans, and more distinctively, from a variety of animal species that are relevant for many applications in drug development and academic research. Depending on the species, iQ Biosciences offers purified cell subsets, such as monocytes, T cells, B cells, and NK cells, as well as a wide array of donor demographics for human samples — catering to researchers with more specific needs.
Secondly, they perform a number of in vitro services to evaluate the safety and function of drugs, such as antibodies, utilizing the specimens that they provide. The company’s menu of services help drug development companies understand, for example, if an antibody binds to the expected target, if it performs the desired activity, or if the therapeutic in question is safe or not. These are fundamental questions to answer for drug candidates. iQ Biosciences adopts a consultative approach when interacting with clients. For example, they may recommend executing a study with PBMCs and/ or whole blood depending on the hypothesized mechanism of action (MoA) of a client’s test article. The clients greatly appreciate the company’s ability to share what they’ve learned, including exemplary data sets, to help guide decisions for their programs.
We see ourselves as a ‘Partner Research Organization’ providing strategic scientific guidance and going the distance with our clients,rather than the typical transactional only focused Contract Research Organization
“We listen to our clients, understand their intent, and apply our knowledge and experiences from similar projects to guide them towards an experimental design that best meets their objectives. We reliably manage the execution of each of our clients’ studies taking into account as best we can their timing sensitivities, such as IND filing deadlines,” adds Ng.
Exemplary Success Stories
In effect, iQ Biosciences aids clients by providing them data sets that allow them to reach scientific inflection points faster than the norm. The company even innovated off-the-shelf product kits based on their in-house assays that clients will be able to purchase to conduct certain assays themselves if they prefer. Ng recalls a collaborative series of projects with Tusk Therapeutics which was acquired by Roche in 2018. Tusk Therapeutics was a semi-virtual, early-stage company with a laser focus on conducting its projects in a step-wise, highly iterative manner. iQ Biosciences assigned a dedicated team to engage on the assays to characterize their therapeutic candidates. This work led to a poster presentation where iQ Biosciences’ scientists were acknowledged for their contributions to the projects at a national conference— an unusual gesture by a therapeutic company to include individuals from a CRO. Tusk was successful in out-licensing their therapeutic programs in subsequent months following that presentation.
In another instance, iQ Biosciences worked closely with TeneoBio, an earlystage company at the time, developing novel T cell engagers. The company joined forces with their scientists in the design of critical assays that ultimately led to the ability to significantly differentiate the characteristics of their respective therapeutic molecules. This work was acknowledged in a seminal publication in the field, demonstrating T cell engager activity could be uncoupled through in vitro assays and that these therapeutics could harness the desired cytotoxic cancer cell killing effects while minimizing the deleterious cytokine release that results in serious adverse events for patients. Shortly thereafter, TeneoBio signed a collaboration partnership with AbbVie to clinically develop related molecules.
iQ Biosciences continues to script several such success stories which, in turn, fuels their growth. “We are actively hiring to fill positions in our services, products, and operations groups and look to significantly increase our current headcount about 3x in the next 5 years. Additionally, we’ve recently expanded our lab space and continue to keep an eye open for larger spaces to support our growing team,” mentions Ng. The company, in parallel, has a revolutionary product launch strategy for a series of new off-the-shelf kit product releases. These kits will allow biomedical research groups all over the world to be able to conduct the same high quality, iQ validated assays in their own laboratories.
“We believe that every client study matters and may have the potential to lead to life-saving therapies in the future. Therefore, we treat each of our clients’ projects with urgency and importance,” concludes Ng.