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Unlocking efficiency in drug discovery: GE Healthcare’s The Pulse visits Sygnature Discovery

15th June 2017 – The Pulse recently interviewed Dr Scott Pollack, Associate Director, Biophysics and Enzymology, and Dr Paul Clewlow, Senior VP, Business Development, about how Sygnature Discovery is accelerating their ambitious clients’ drug discovery programs and helping them to increase their productivity through the application of cutting-edge technology, such as the Biacore 8K surface plasmon resonance equipment that was recently added to Sygnature’s Bioscience Department.

To read The Pulse article, go to:

Sygnature Discovery’s CEO Dr Simon Hirst talks to Chemistry World about growth


14th June 2017 – What a difference a year makes!  Chemistry World caught up with Dr Simon Hirst, Sygnature Discovery’s Founder and CEO, one year after he was named as the Royal Society of Chemistry’s ‘Chemistry World Entrepreneur of the Year’ 2016.

Since then the company has risen to even great heights and now Sygnature Discovery is part of an innovative partnership to bolster the life science sector in Nottingham.  To read the Chemistry World article, go to:

SelectScience Editorial Article: Insights into the UK’s Largest Independent Integrated Drug Discovery CRO

1st June 2017 – SelectScience recently interviewed Denise Swift, a Senior Bioscientist, Project and Team Leader at Sygnature Discovery.  Denise is responsible for evaluating new technologies to enhance Sygnature’s Bioscience capabilities – in particular, screening technologies, instrumentation and automation.

The interview highlighted Sygnature Discovery’s novel approach to custom assay development and revealed some of the secrets of our success in accelerating the discovery of new therapeutics.

The interview can be found here:

Sygnature Discovery identified as one of London Stock Exchange Group’s 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain

10th May 2017 – London, UK – The report is a celebration of the UK’s fastest-growing and most dynamic small and medium sized businesses across the UK.

To be included in the list, companies needed to show consistent revenue growth over a minimum of three years, significantly outperforming their industry peers. More detail on the methodology can be found in the report online at    

Sygnature Discovery enhances Biophysics capability with addition of Biacore 8K SPR system

2nd May 2017 – Nottingham, UK – Sygnature Discovery, the UK’s largest independent provider of integrated drug discovery resource and expertise, has enhanced its Biophysics capability with the addition of GE Healthcare’s Biacore 8K SPR system to the Biacore T200 SPR system that the company already has in-house.

As the newest member of GE Healthcare’s  Biacore family of products, the Biacore 8K efficiently delivers high quality binding data when screening and characterising small molecules and biologicals.  This high-sensitivity surface plasmon resonance (SPR) system rapidly provides kinetics and affinity data, thereby shortening time to results by up to eight times compared to single-needle systems.  The blend of system flexibility and throughput reduces the experimental cycle time, even for complex targets.

Dr Scott Pollack, Associate Director of Bioscience, at Sygnature Discovery commented:

“Biacore 8K is GE Healthcare’s most advanced Biacore instrument.  With its eight injection needles, the system can handle 64 affinity titrations in 3-5 hours, so up to 128 titrations per day or 640 (320 for n=2) per week if run continuously.  Single concentration test runs (e.g. fragment screens) of 4 hours per 384 well plate, or up to 2,300 per day are possible.

In addition to the more rapid client data turnaround that this capacity allows, the 8-needle configuration and smart ABA injection algorithm also accelerates assay development by allowing a wide array of conditions to be tested in parallel (e.g., buffer scouting) and are ideal for compound competition (mode-of-action) analysis.

Adding Biacore 8K to our Biacore T200 means that Sygnature Discovery is one of the best equipped drug discovery CROs in the UK offering biophysical services”.

Sygnature Discovery receives a prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise


21 April 2017 – Nottingham, UK – Sygnature Discovery has today been recognised with one of the UK’s most prestigious business awards – the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, International Trade.

Today the company employs over 150 dedicated scientists who research potential new medicines to treat a host of debilitating and often fatal diseases. This expertise is exported to clients around the world with Sygnature experiencing tremendous year on year growth.

The Founder and CEO of Sygnature Discovery Dr Simon Hirst, a Medicinal Chemist with almost 30 years of industry experience commented, “To receive this recognition is very gratifying and timely for all the team here at Sygnature Discovery.  As a company we have been fortunate to receive many awards for innovation and entrepreneurship however, the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise, International Trade is a tremendous honour and recognises our success overseas. As a company, we have always viewed Drug Discovery as a globally  important sector to work in and as such, international trade has always been a key part of our strategy. This Award is a fantastic boost to our company and our ambitions for the future growth of Sygnature.”

He continued, “The Award is timely because it comes just as Sygnature moves into its new £30m Discovery building in the growing life sciences hub in Nottingham. It seems no time at all since I set up the company in one small laboratory with only 4 medicinal chemists and now we are approaching 180 staff in total.  We are confident that our new facility will enhance our continued growth and this Award for Enterprise  will help to support that trajectory.”

Dr Hirst concluded, “Fundamentally, I believe that Drug Discovery research really matters.  It matters because there are so many untreatable or poorly treated diseases around.  It matters because the chances are, one day, we will all be patients needing care and treatment.  Pharmaceutical  research can deliver life changing medicines but it is a long-term goal and successes are rare and hard won. It’s fantastic to receive recognition through a Queen’s Award for Enterprise and to mark the exciting journey that we are all on”

Nottingham, where Sygnature Discovery is headquartered, has a well renowned heritage for drug discovery. The company is based on the former Boots site (now known as BioCity) where Ibuprofen was invented. An Awards reception will take place at Buckingham Palace later in the year and the Award for Enterprise will be formally conferred by a Grant of Appointment, by the Lord-Lieutenant of the county at a ceremony to be held at Sygnature’s brand new laboratory facility.


First look inside Sygnature Discovery’s new £30 million HQ – the “Discovery Building”

10th April 2017, Nottingham, UK – Dr Jonathan Williams, COO, has given the “Nottingham Post” a tour of the “Discovery Building”, Sygnature’s new “landmark” facility located in BioCity Nottingham.  The company will begin the move into the new, state-of-the-art building later this month.

Dr Williams told the “Nottingham Post”:

“After Oxford, Cambridge and London, Nottingham is probably the most vibrant area for bioscience research in the country.  Internationally, it’s difficult to know where it stands but Sygnature and other companies at BioCity have contracts worldwide.”

“For the past 12 years-plus, Sygnature Discovery has been doing really well but has got on with its business quite quietly.  This will really raise the profile of the company and of Nottingham in terms of what’s going on here.”

To read the “Nottingham Post” article in full, go to:

Discovery Building – Interior

Sygnature Discovery ranked in FT1000: The Financial Times list of Europe’s 1,000 fastest-growing companies

7th April 2017 – Nottingham, UK – Sygnature Discovery has been ranked 906th in the Financial Times FT1000 .

The FT1000 lists the 1,000 companies in Europe that have achieved the highest percentage growth in revenues between 2012 and 2015.

As the Financial Times describes it, “Innovative and fast-growing companies are the driving force of the European economy in the 21st century. They generate jobs and sustain Europe’s competitiveness.”

Dr Paul J. Clewlow, Senior VP, Business Development, at Sygnature Discovery said, “It is a significant achievement for Sygnature Discovery to be included in the FT1000 and demonstrates the increasing demand that we are seeing for our integrated drug discovery know-how and expertise.  There are only five other pharmaceutical companies in total in this list of Europe’s 1,000 fastest-growing companies and none are competitors of Sygnature Discovery.”

Sygnature Discovery, founded in Nottingham, UK, in 2004, has 180 full-time staff.  80% of the research scientists employed by Sygnature have PhDs.  The company will begin its relocation to Discovery Building at BioCity Nottingham in late April 2017.  Since 2011, nine drug candidates developed by Sygnature Discovery have entered clinical trials.


Double celebration for TopiVert and Sygnature Discovery as two drug candidates begin clinical trials

29th March 2017 – Nottingham and London, UK – One of Sygnature Discovery’s long-term clients, TopiVert Pharma, has recently initiated clinical trials with TOP1288 and TOP1630.  Both compounds were first synthesised at Sygnature during the successful collaboration.  TOP1288 and TOP1630 are Narrow Spectrum Kinase Inhibitors (NSKIs).  NSKIs target several important kinases in the signalling cascade in inflammatory cells.  They have two key attributes which promise enhanced efficacy and improved safety over current therapies: firstly, they have excellent activity against a select range of key kinases that play pivotal roles in multiple inflammatory pathways giving rise to a broad synergistic effect in models of both innate and adaptive immunity; and, secondly, a localised, non-systemic mode of action which minimises exposure to the body’s healthy tissues.

TOP1288: – The Phase I study is designed to assess the safety, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of TOP1288 when delivered orally in healthy volunteers.  A Phase IIa POC study of a rectal formulation of TOP1288, which is on-going in Europe, aims to demonstrate the efficacy and safety of the compound in the treatment of UC when the drug is delivered directly to the site of disease in the colon.  This POC study with a rectal formulation is intended to guide the development of an oral formulation of TOP1288 as the intended commercial presentation. Results from both clinical studies are expected in the second half of 2017.

TOP1630: – When administered as eye drops, TOP1630 is absorbed and retained in target inflammatory cells in the cornea with only minimal systemic exposure, making it an ideal topical eye therapy.  TOP1630 has the potential to provide rapid symptomatic relief together with long term efficacy in the treatment of the signs and symptoms of DES.  The POC study in DES patients is expected to report in the second half of 2017.


Ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

IBD is a term used to describe several diseases that involve inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.  The two most common forms of IBD, Crohn’s disease and UC, together affect over 4 million people worldwide.  They are both chronic relapsing conditions that cause bloody diarrhoea, abdominal pain and significant reductions in a patient’s quality of life.  Current treatments for UC involve administration of oral, rectal or intravenous/sub-cutaneous anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory therapies, including biologics.  At least 40% of patients have poorly controlled disease and around 20% require surgery to manage the condition.

DES is a common inflammatory disorder of the front of the eye which is estimated to affect 5-6% of adults, with women more commonly affected than men.  More than 15% of the population over the age of 65 suffer from DES.  Current treatments have only limited efficacy in treating both the signs and symptoms of the disease and often produce unpleasant side-effects.

Keapstone Therapeutics and Sygnature Discovery collaborate to discover new therapies for Parkinson’s and Motor Neuron Disease

14th March 2017 – Sheffield, London and Nottingham, UK – Keapstone Therapeutics, a new biotech company formed by the University of Sheffield and Parkinson’s UK to develop new drugs for Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, and Sygnature Discovery, the UK’s largest independent provider of integrated drug discovery resource and expertise, today announced they will collaborate to discover new treatments for Parkinson’s and Motor Neuron Disease (MND).

Keapstone Therapeutics will build on pioneering research undertaken at the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN) and an international collaboration with the European Lead Factory, during which Dr Richard Mead of SITraN discovered novel small molecules which prevent the interaction between two proteins known as Kelch-like ECH-associated protein-1 (KEAP1) and Nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2) to increase the survival of neurons in both Parkinson’s and MND.  In close collaboration with Sygnature Discovery, Keapstone Therapeutics will now further optimise these molecules to afford drug candidates with the potential to slow or even prevent the progression of these neurodegenerative diseases.

Dr Richard Mead of Keapstone Therapeutics said: “We are very excited about this new partnership with Parkinson’s UK.  It is a great opportunity for us to pursue a novel drug discovery programme for both Parkinson’s and MND.  We will now progress these molecules through the next stage of drug development with Sygnature Discovery and Peak Proteins.”

Dr Arthur Roach, Director of Research and Development at Parkinson’s UK, said: “Keapstone is a pioneering project and a world-first in terms of its formation.  By seeking early collaboration with Sheffield in the creation of a spin-out biotech company, we will be able to investigate and develop potential Parkinson’s treatments with an intensity that is unprecedented for a charity.  This exciting new venture would not have been possible without our supporters and partners. We’re looking forward to sharing the developments of this new project with them.”

Dr Simon Hirst, Founder and CEO of Sygnature Discovery commented, “We are delighted to be collaborating with Keapstone Therapeutics and Parkinson’s UK to discover new drugs to treat Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.  Keapstone’s novel therapeutic approach offers huge potential of developing treatments for these debilitating and ultimately fatal diseases.  Sygnature has considerable experience in undertaking drug discovery research directed towards neurodegenerative diseases and has a successful track record of success in delivering clinical candidates.”

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