Our experts weigh in COVID’s impact on supply chain pharma, the most impactful drug molecules and PDX cancer models

Charles River scientists and executives were featured recently in news articles covering everything from the COVID-19 pandemic and more personalized cancer models, to what drug molecules have had the greatest impact on society.

The industry publication Pharma’s Almanac conducted interview with about two dozen leading scientists and thought leaders about how the pharmaceutical industry has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. This fast-moving virus, which has already infected more than 13 million people worldwide and killed more than half a million, has been an enormous challenge for all facets of the health care industry. Researchers are in the hunt for effective vaccines that can cover the world, and new drugs that can control the virus in the already-infected in hopes of bringing the pandemic to an end.

“If there is one thing industry is learning from this crisis, it is that we need a more diversified system of manufacturing supplies and completing research,” Wilbert Frieling, D.V.M., Corporate Senior Vice President, Global Discovery Services, Charles River told Pharma’s Almanac. “In order to reduce the vulnerabilities that have been exposed in the system, supply chains should consist of suppliers within multiple geographic areas, with less complicated transportation and distribution routes. Dr. Frieling said outsourcing research programs is also a good idea for pharma because it reduces the necessity for constant on-site support and shift control of these services to contract research organizations that have the expertise and infrastructure to do the work.

Reducing the amount of travel for employees and for supply shipments is also important during a pandemic, says Dr. Frieling. “Running a modern research lab with many suppliers, constantly changing technology, and high demand for highly qualified staff is complicated,” he said. “Creating that complete infrastructure and having it be able to continue functioning under extreme circumstances, like a pandemic, makes it even more difficult.:

Pharma’s Almanac also canvassed expert opinion on which drug molecules had the greatest impact on the drug industry and on society. Senior Director of In Vivo Pharmacology Joe Cornicelli suggest aspirin and insulin as two drugs that have had profound impact on society – aspirin because you can find it in just about every medicine cabinet in the world, and insulin because until its discovery Type 1 diabetes was a death sentence. He also mentioned penicillin because it marked the beginning of the Age of Antibiotics and mustard gas because it started the search for chemotherapeutic agents. But morphine and the small pox vaccine have had the biggest impact on society for different reasons—morphine because its wide use has sparked a nationwide addiction problem and the smallpox vaccine because of its public health achievement. “The vaccine resulted in the elimination of smallpox as a disease from the face of the planet; one of mankind’s greatest achievements,” said Dr. Cornicelli.

Lastly, the trade journal Biocompare  provided scientific insights in newer iterations of the so-called PDX models—which are mouse models engrafted with human tumors. The newer PDX models still look a lot like the original but the differences are key. “Cancer tissue is implanted into immune-compromised mice and kept ‘alive’ by passaging it from one animal to the other,” Julia Schueler, research director at Charles River’s Discovery Oncology site in Freiburg, told Biocompare. “Those cancer tissues represent a highly realistic model of the human disease.”  

Dr. Schueler says that the tumor microenvironment has a big impact on tumor biology. “The advantage of orthotopic implantation is a higher resemblance to the human disease, but comes with the downside of a more laborious read-out, usually some sort of in-life imaging.”

To learn more about Charles River’s Discovery Oncology program or COVID-19, check outrour blog Eureka.