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Expansions, transactions and all action: Our 2021 recap!

2021 is nearly over – and what a year it’s been for Sygnature! From key appointments to new investment and growth across the pond, there have been plenty of reasons to get out the party poppers despite the ongoing pandemic (in a safe fashion, obviously). Let’s remind ourselves of a great 12 months…

The successes started early when we were named Company of the Year at the slightly delayed 2020 Bionow Annual Awards in February. The award recognised our tireless efforts to keep providing our customers with the highest level of service no matter what COVID-19 could throw at us, and gave Dr Paul Overton cause to celebrate early in his new role as Chief Commercial Officer.

The Bionow Company of the Year award

The 2020 Bionow Company of the Year award

We’re not one for resting on our laurels, though. Early 2021 also saw us expand our facilities at Alderley Park, creating a second fully integrated drug discovery site that includes new state-of-the-art laboratories.

This major investment allows us to add even more chemistry and biology expertise, and no fewer than up to 150 scientists into our teams. Not bad – and we’re still only in February.

Fast-forward a month and we were busy doing some further integration, too. Having already acquired in vivo pharmacology expert RenaSci and DMPK specialist XenoGesis, we officially aligned the two brands under the Sygnature Discovery umbrella in March. The result? Three of the UK’s top drug discovery CROs, one name, and a single overarching focus to offer the best multidisciplinary, co-located solutions for customers new and old.

As our profile in North America continues to increase, late April and early May beckoned in two major changes for Sygnature.

First, we opened a new office – our second in the US – in South San Francisco’s biotech hub at Oyster Point. The location was carefully selected to bring us even closer to our current and future west-coast clients; South San Francisco alone is home to no fewer than 200 biotech companies.

Our South San Francisco office at Oyster Point

Our South San Francisco office at Oyster Point

To bolster our stateside presence, we appointed Dr David Lustig as Vice President of Business Development for the US, bringing his extensive experience of the pharmaceutical industry and commercialisation into the Sygnature fold.

We were also hard at work expanding our scientific portfolio.

In June, we established an Early Candidate Developability Screening Group in Nottingham – backed by £1.5m of capital investment – to help our customers formulate drug candidates for regulatory drug development and overcome even the most complex of bioavailability challenges.

By engaging formulation scientists at an earlier stage and maintaining constant dialogue between DMPK, in vitro biology, pharmacology and medicinal chemistry teams, we’re better able to make phase-appropriate formulations to deliver ways forward in our projects.

June also saw some huge news for our company. We received a significant investment from Five Arrows Principal Investments, the European corporate private equity arm of Rothschild & Co. The news meant our previous private equity investor, Phoenix Equity Partners, exited after almost four years as a shareholder, during which time Sygnature’s annual revenue had more than doubled and our employee count had increased from 200 to 450. The backing of our new investor meant we are poised to continue on our path to further growth and success – exciting times lay ahead.

Looking eastward, two months later, we entered into a collaboration with Epigeneron Inc., signing a multi-project agreement to develop small molecule compounds of novel targets identified by the leading Japanese bio-venture company’s unique technology. The partnership reflects the status of Japan as an increasingly important market for Sygnature as we continue to build on our existing relationships across the Asia-Pacific region.

More recently, there was a move in our boardroom when Louisa Jordison became our Chief Financial Officer two years after joining the company as Director of Strategic Planning. Louisa replaced Victoria Tabiner, who had been our CFO for more than a decade before deciding to step down.

Louisa Jordison

New CFO Louisa Jordison

Elsewhere in the company, there were significant role changes linked to our expanding therapeutic expertise. Dr John Unitt – who joined us in 2011 from AstraZeneca to lead our Bioscience group – became our Vice President of Inflammation and Immunology Drug Discovery, after Dr Max Mirza had earlier become our Vice President of Neuroscience Drug Discovery following previous positions at the likes of Mundipharma and Pfizer.

Speaking of expertise, our knowledge was put in the spotlight in 2021 with the release of our latest eBook, Accelerating Drug Discovery: How to Increase Productivity with Integrated Strategies. The resource explores the benefits of integrated drug discovery approaches and how greater multidisciplinary collaboration can help improve the odds of success – it’s proven very popular in recent months. Have a read!

And finally, of course, we continue to invest in the next generation of scientists throughout the year by running educational events like our medicinal chemistry workshops, which give final-year PhD students and postdocs a flavour of life as drug discovery scientists. (It’s worth keeping an eye on our News and Events page to see what we will add in 2022).

Delegates at a recent medicinal chemistry workshop at Alderley Park

Delegates at a recent medicinal chemistry workshop at Alderley Park

When we look back on 2021, we can be so proud of what we’ve achieved. We had obviously hoped COVID-19 would fade into the rear-view mirror this year, but the hard work and passion of all our employees have meant that not only have we not been slowed down by the pandemic, we’ve thrived in sometimes challenging circumstances.

All that’s left is to wish our colleagues, customers and collaborators a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 2022 looks set to be an even more exciting and fast-paced year for Sygnature – and with your help again, there’s no limit to what we can achieve!

Got a question or a project for next year you’d like to discuss? Just use one of our contact forms to get in touch.

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