Partnering in many forms will drive innovation, and new diagnostic screening tools for Zika and other flaviviruses will help us protect animal colonies.   

Strategic Partnerships 

Organizations have traditionally relied on their internal R&D programs or mergers & acquisitions to advance their innovative ideas and bring new ventures to life. In the research models and services field, strategic collaborations across a wide range of partners, from CROs and large biopharmas to academics and non-profits are becoming increasingly common. Groups with a collaborative mindset are realizing that partnering opens up new opportunities for value creation, affords them a unique competitive advantage, and separates their institutions from the crowd.

Partnering can take many forms and finding the right business model and partner is both daunting and rewarding. In our case, we have successfully partnered up with a leading caging manufacturer and jointly co-developed, through shared R&D efforts, the methods for environmental monitoring a true disruptive innovation in the field of research animal diagnostics. Recently, we have  announced several partnerships with key model creation companies worldwide which enabled us to blend our complementary expertise and bring CRISPR/Cas9 model creation services to our clients in the fraction of time that would be required if we were to build this expertise on our own. While strategic partnering gave us access to leading-edge technologies that otherwise would be largely unattainable and enabled us to create exciting new commercial offerings, finding the right partners was not easy. Partnering is bit like dating—you have to put yourself out there, let everyone know that you are in a partnering mode, and carefully assess which companies are right for you! But, over time, well-managed alliances produce vital competencies that transform markets and industries. I am certain we’ll be seeing a lot more of them behind tomorrow’s innovations.

Iva Morse, Corporate Vice President (CVP) and

Chief Scientific Officer, Global Research Models and Services

Flavivirus Diagnostics

Zika, a virus once thought to be benign, is now linked to severe fetal birth defects (primarily microcephaly) and the rare autoimmune disorder, Guillain-Barré Syndrome.  The rapid recent spread of this virus, shows how quickly vector-borne diseases can get out of control. Zika will continue to be a major health issue in 2017 as the public health community and scientists work to find effective screening tools to detect and treat it, not just in people but in some animal populations.

Most of the public health response has been focused on humans, but research animals are also vulnerable to Zika and other flaviviruses, such as Yellow Fever virus, Dengue virus, West Nile virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, which have emerged as a hot topic. Laboratories are now developing diagnostic screening tools to help protect research animal populations that live outdoors, particularly for those in warmer climates susceptible to mosquito bites. For instance, our R&D group designed a probe based fluorogenic polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay that targets a conserved region of one of the nonstructural proteins of the virus. The real-time PCR assay should be able to provide some clue or signal whether the Zika virus is evident in an animal colony or in mosquitos obtained within the vicinity. The assay may also be useful in supporting Zika virus in research mouse models to determine which organs and cell types the virus is able to actively infect. This could ultimately help us understand how the Zika virus is spreading in the body and further determine which tissue sites can be used as a good sample type for Zika virus detection.

 —Chuanwu Wang, Senior Scientist

Research Animal Diagnostics