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Collaboration is critical for neuroscience's greatest challenges

Pre-clinical models underpin some of the most exciting discoveries in neuroscience. For example, over the last three decades, animal models have enabled scientists to describe how we navigate our environment and uncover the mechanisms by which this ability is lost in Alzheimer's disease. These models are fundamental tools in characterizing the neural pathways that control coordinated movement, driving discoveries of pathological changes in those pathways that lead to the motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

However, the sheer complexity of the brain makes it extremely difficult to recapitulate the features of these neurological diseases in research animals. Unfortunately, models that poorly mimic human conditions result in the all-too-frequent failure of drug discoveries to translate from bench to bedside. As a result, researchers, research organizations, and the industries that support them are rising to the challenge to develop more translational research models. Moreover, these groups recognize that a collaborative, precompetitive approach will bring more success, at a faster rate.

One such collaboration was created by The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, the world’s largest non-profit funder of Parkinson’s disease research. The Foundation and its partners, including Envigo, work to identify and develop high-quality, well-characterized pre-clinical models that meet the needs of the Parkinson’s research community. With these tools readily accessible, researchers are equipped to accelerate their work in order to address the unmet clinical needs of people living with Parkinson’s disease.

As an example of the program's success, Envigo’s Andrew Brown told us about a newly developed rat model for Parkinson’s disease:

“Working with The Michael J. Fox Foundation, we used CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology to create a humanized A53T alpha-synuclein rat model. A53T is a point mutation present in the human population that is correlated with susceptibility for Parkinson’s disease. The research community is poised to take advantage of the availability of this model, which will improve our understanding of genetically mediated susceptibility for alpha-synuclein aggregation: a pathological hallmark of Parkinson’s disease.”

The A53T alpha-synuclein and other newly developed models (which address additional Parkinson’s-related pathological pathways) are only just making their way into the research landscape. With time, they have the potential to increase our understanding of the disease and identify new targets for treatment. The collaboration between The Michael J. Fox Foundation and research support organizations like Envigo have accelerated the development of these much-needed research tools. Through this work, new drugs with disease-modifying potential will have a higher chance of success in future Parkinson’s disease clinical trials.

The process described above for bringing new models to the research community is a significant departure from traditional practices in which research laboratories would develop the models they need in-house. It must be noted that this new approach also works outside non-profit foundation initiatives. Below, Andrew describes some of the benefits to researchers of working with a research support organization to develop a pre-clinical model:

+ Expertise, track-record, and efficiency

“While there are academic labs that have access to a transgenic core facility that can create these models, they require a significant amount of investment to get them up and running, and that requires a great deal of specialist expertise. Even with these resources in place, it still takes years of development before a facility becomes truly efficient. Working with Envigo brings our years of experience and proven track-record to your laboratory instantly.”

+ Intellectual property (IP)

“Technologies like CRISPR require licenses that may limit a researcher’s freedom to operate after they have created their model. Envigo has a very broad IP coverage, which removes those concerns and associated expenses.”

+ Beyond model creation

Creating models is a core component of Envigo’s work, but it doesn't stop there. We specialize in breeding schemes particular to each model, and implement state-of-the-art health monitoring programs. There are also downstream services that insure your model against unforeseen circumstances, like our cryopreservation and rederivation services.

 Envigo does more than provide research services and tools. At our core is a spirit of collaboration that enables researchers to focus on the aspects of their work that will drive discovery and improve health.

To speak with a specialist about your needs, contact us