Charles River extends relationship with Michael J. Fox Foundation

Spring also brings some other extensions and expansions for the company, which works to accelerate research and drug development efforts

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WILMINGTON, Mass.—On May 3, Charles River Laboratories International Inc. announced an extension of its long-standing collaboration with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), a leading organization working to support the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Charles River and MJFF had already been working together since 2011 to accelerate the discovery of therapies for PD, but this latest extension includes grants from MJFF to support two projects:
  • The in-vivo phenotyping of an α-synuclein knockout model and an α-synuclein A53T knockin model
  • Establishment and validation of a preclinical model to test LRRK2 kinase inhibitors.
With regard to in-vivo phenotyping, Charles River, with MJFF support, has launched a new project focused on an α-synuclein knock-out model and an α-synuclein A53T knock-in model.
“We are enthusiastic about the start of our new project, phenotyping research models with support from MJFF. It is extremely rewarding for our teams to know that they are making visible progress toward bringing a novel PD therapy to the clinic,” said Dr. Robert Hodgson, who is director of in-vivo central nervous system matters in the Integrated Drug Discovery team at Charles River.
Over the next two years, Charles River will develop and provide a baseline phenotype of these models, creating invaluable tools to drive discovery programs aimed at bringing novel PD therapies to the clinic.
As for the second part of the expanded effort, Charles River and MJFF have renewed a longstanding project to continue advancing efforts to test novel small-molecule LRRK2 kinase inhibitors. The inhibition of the kinase LRRK2, which in humans has been genetically linked to development of PD, is a promising novel therapeutic strategy. The goal is to determine optimal dosing strategies to achieve efficacy with LRRK2 inhibitors, while avoiding the lung alterations that have been reported in previous research.
“We are extremely proud of the work we’ve completed with MJFF. Together, we’ve made strides toward discovering novel therapies for PD patients. We look forward to continuing our collaboration, and believe we will make additional scientific contributions toward MJFF’s cutting-edge research,” said Birgit Girshick, corporate executive vice president of discovery and safety assessment at Charles River.
Added Dr. Nicole Polinski, associate director of research programs at MJFF: “The Michael J. Fox Foundation is committed to advancing tools and preclinical models that speed Parkinson’s research toward urgently needed breakthroughs for patients. Charles River’s strong portfolio of early discovery services has made them a natural partner for us, and we look forward to seeing the outcomes of these projects, which may have a significant impact on development of new treatments for the millions living with this disease.”
A couple days before the MJFF news, Charles River announced the expansion of its service capabilities in early discovery screening, noting that it is the first contract research organization to offer clients access to the Apricot Designs Dual Arm (ADDA) system (from Apricot Designs Inc.) for high-throughput absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (HT-ADME) studies to identify potential lead compounds in North America and Europe. Additionally, Charles River has geographically expanded its pharmacokinetic (PK) capabilities at sites central to major pharmaceutical and biotechnology hubs.
Early screening provides important insight into a compound’s underlying biology, and streamlined HT-ADME and PK technologies are essential components to identifying promising candidates early in the drug discovery process.
The ADDA system is a high-speed autosampler designed for drug discovery that provides ADME discovery scientists with a fast sample delivery platform for liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS). Automated permeability, metabolic stability and protein binding screening assays can be rapidly turned around with the ADDA system and a single mass spectrometer system, saving critical time in the drug discovery process.
“The ADDA system, Apricot Designs’ dual arm autosampler, was designed with early discovery scientists in mind. It enables seamless integration with LC/MS systems, accelerating the laboratory research process and yielding the best results,” said Felix H. Yiu, founder and CEO of Apricot Designs.
“In early discovery research, screening is an essential component of any successful program. With access to industry-leading technologies, we’re able to provide our clients strategic guidance, ultimately working toward accelerating their programs,” noted Charles River's Girshick. And, as Dr. Ian Waddell, executive director of biology at Charles River, added: “The early discovery industry is seeing a marked shift towards a better understanding of the underlying biology of candidate compounds. Both HT-ADME and PK technologies are critical to that understanding, and to developing more successful candidates in early discovery.”
Early April also brought additional expansion news, specifically that Charles River and PathoQuest would build on their existing strategic partnership agreement to provide next-generation sequencing (NGS) services to the biologics industry. As part of the expanded partnership, Charles River intends to make a direct investment in PathoQuest.
“Our partnership with PathoQuest is integral to our ability to provide the most sensitive testing methods to our clients in order to ensure the safety of biological products produced by the biopharmaceutical industry,” Greg Beattie, corporate vice president of the Global Biologics Testing Solutions arm of Charles River, commented in a press release. “PathoQuest’s NGS-based testing solution provides a comprehensive analysis that is both rapid and reliable.”
Since 2016, Charles River has provided clients access to PathoQuest’s NGS solution, which combines a proprietary sample preparation method, state-of-the-art equipment and an exclusive curated pathogen database with a comprehensive BioIT analysis pipeline. PathoQuest’s NGS solution is a powerful test for identifying adventitious agents in a single, comprehensive analysis that minimizes false negatives while also providing a tool for the genetic characterization of cell lines.
“Industry guidelines increasingly identify high-throughput sequencing, also known as NGS, as a highly sensitive and reliable testing solution,” said Jean-François Brepson, president and CEO of PathoQuest. “We anticipate Charles River’s global footprint and biologics-industry leadership will enable the further growth and expansion of our platform.”
The combination of Charles River’s existing GLP and GMP capabilities and PathoQuest’s unique offering allows, the partners say, “for a fully integrated, rapid and reliable solution for the testing of vaccines, biologics and gene therapy products.”

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