Medical research increasingly focuses on leveraging global clinical trials to their full potential. This means that researchers can explore widespread health conditions and find and test innovative new therapies and solutions that may benefit many patients worldwide. Wider and bigger clinical trials are more inclusive.
Biobanks that collect and store biological samples from patients are essential in supporting this research. However, finding high quality biobanking services that include secure cell transport, as well as cell storage under highly specific conditions for global trials can be difficult. Cell&Co is a company specialized in the management of biological and chemical samples and products. Quality equipment is vital to the company’s success.
Founded in 2012 by biomedical engineers, Florent Belon and Sofien Dessolin, Cell&Co offers top quality biobanking, central laboratory and drug management services mostly for small and medium biotech and pharmaceutical organisations. This year, the company celebrates its 10th anniversary. Over the last decade, it has grown significantly to become a trusted partner for research organisations from a wide variety of sectors. Cell&Co’s success can be attributed to a combination of many factors. These include investment in advanced equipment and facilities, highly skilled expertise, and close collaboration with key partners, as well as solutions that address significant challenges in the practicalities of global medical research.
Fundamental in providing high quality bio-samples for research is effective storage of valuable clinical samples, Celebrating a and providing stable, often ultra-low temperatures, is a key part of this. Cell&Co has worked together with PHCbi throughout its 10-year existence.
Clinical sample guardians
The company was started in November 2012. The first task was to create its first site in Pont-du Chateau, France - a 425m2 state-of-the art biobanking facility. “We launched Cell&Co to provide the highest quality of service for researchers’ samples and related data throughout their life cycle including their collection, production, transport, receipt, preparation, analysis, storage, dispatch and disposal,” said Florent Belon, Chief Executive & Sales and Marketing Director. “Through biobanking - the secure storage of research samples or pharmaceutical products - and central laboratory activities for clinical trials, we can maximize the quality of the samples and related data that our clients entrust us with and optimize their value for our clients’ current and future projects.
The first site was opened in May 2013. Shortly afterwards, Cell&Co secured its first major (10-year) contract to provide biobanking services to a large public health research institute in France. The first significant demand for Cell&Co’s central lab functionality began in 2016. The first project was for a Phase II clinical trial being conducted in France, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US). “Providing central lab and biobanking services for this international trial involved collecting samples from patients’ homes, which is something of a challenge for anyone,” explained Florent. “However, it has been very, very successful. And it has answered an important, previously largely unmet need, because following this, many companies have approached us to ask for similar services to support their clinical trials which are held in Europe and the US.”
Responding to increasing demand
In response to growing demand for its services, the company created a second site (850m2) in Clermont- Ferrand in France, which was opened in 2019.
This is now the headquarters of Cell&Co. “The second development is an extension of an existing laboratory. It now houses our (contracted) facilities for processing and analysis of clinical samples,” continued Florent. “Alongside addition of the new lab, there has been some further reorganisation. Clermont-Ferrand is now dedicated to central lab and biobanking activities, while the Pont du Chateau site has been redesigned as a site dedicated to pharmaceutical products managementincluding storage, secondary packaging and QP services.”
“As part of these developments, we’ve had to increase our liquid nitrogen storage capacity for additional cryogenic storage and adjust some other aspects of the facility. We have already made a lot investments and are still investing in this site,” said Florent. “One of the most important objectives in creating Cell&Co for us was to build a company that considers the environment too. So, we have designed all our facilities to expend the leastamount of energy possible, and they include, for example, special insulating systems.”
*Sofien Dessolin, Chief Financial & Scientific Officer Cell&Co BioServices
Cell&Co has grown steadily since then. To enable even further expansion globally, it has become part of Cryoport Group – a US-based parallel. This will support the strategy to offer a worldwide service for ATMP management and will starts in Europe with the creation of new sites to better serve our clients.
“As part of Cryoport, we are pleased to play a major rolein the development and management of new sites in EMEA to integrate a worldwide network of Global Supply Chain Centers dedicated to support the advanced therapies logistic challenges.” explained Florent.
storage equipment. PHCbi (then called Panasonic) was the only one at the time to provide a full temperature range (+20°C, +5°C, -20°C, -80°C and -150°C ) in their equipment,” Florent remarked. “Importantly also, PHCbi were strongly recommended because of the stability and homogeneity of their products.”
“We have never had any critical issues with PHCbi equipment in 10 years” he continued. “In addition, we have the same point of contact since we created the company, as well as the same PHCbi partner carrying out the maintenance.
These things are really important. Value and service have contributed to a very complementary collaboration.Our business developer at Cell&Co, now works with PHCbi’s business developers. The collaboration is just getting better and better.”
With global expansion of clinical trials, samples often require transport after sample collection. “One of our challenges is logistics. Most of the samples that we manage must be stored and transported at -80°C. For transportation, we use dry ice, but the technology around this currently comes with several constraints. Then, we try to help our clients by developing and using innovative packaging and new logistic solutions which are more reliable” said Florent. “This permanent renewal approach is acclaimed by our clients and allow us to optimize the quality of samples and products transported. ”
High performance equipment
“When we created the company, we were looking for a provider that offered all standard temperature range.
As part of the Cryoport group the company aims to continue its expansion throughout Europe and globally. Typically, they find that their clients build on initial requests as they form a partnership over several years. “it’s not that the needs of the client evolves in that time, its more the collaboration which gets bigger and better through the years, and we are able to provide additional services and solutions,” said Florent. “To continue evolving globally, we will keep on developing innovative systems and equipment and ensure that our sites are perfectly interconnected to better serve the needs of our clients.”