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The fine art of contract breeding

The quality of preclinical research is key to the successful translation of new drugs to the clinic. An important driver of this quality is a healthy, meticulously managed, and accurately characterized animal colony. To achieve this requires dedication and experience, and success depends critically on state-of-the-art facilities, expertise in technologies and colony management practices, as well as comprehensive health and genetic monitoring protocols. How can researchers ensure flexible access to a reliable supply of these high-quality models? Well, there’s an art to it.  

The critical role of contract breeding services

By taking advantage of contract breeding services like those offered at Envigo, research organizations benefit from a highly skilled workforce. The primary role of these professionals is to develop and maintain models that can provide researchers with accurate and conclusive answers to their research questions. As such, Envigo’s team has perfected a range of innovative strategies and techniques that overcome the traditional hurdles (including genetic drift, changes in health status, and regulatory changes) to maintaining a consistent and reliable model. Below, we highlight some of the actions Envigo takes to ensure research continuity throughout a preclinical program.

Strategic cohort supply

Choosing the right animal for a study is not the only factor researchers need to consider when developing their protocols. The timing and availability of a model represents an additional major challenge. By working closely with our research partners to understand their research objectives and timelines, Envigo can:

+ Enable precision adjustments to a colony’s size via contract breeding isolators

+ Anticipate supply needs to avoid superfluous populations, without risking an underpowered sample size. 

In addition, speed congenics can be used to accelerate generational breeding in animal models.

Rigorous, full spectrum health monitoring programs

At the core of Envigo’s Full Spectrum health monitoring is a comprehensive range of services that allow researchers to test, report, interpret, and rapidly respond. This includes:

+ On-site biosecurity assessment

+ Bespoke test profile design using non-sacrificial panel techniques (NSP) wherever possible (where samples are collected directly from the animals and/or their environments, without need for euthanasia)

+ 100% validated testing to deliver a clear picture of colony health (including serology, bacteriology, parasitology, and pathology)

+ Scheduled reporting and expert support for interpretation. 

Importantly, when these strategies identify a biosecurity concern, Envigo can deploy a range of services to help colonies recover quickly. Notably, Envigo’s cryopreservation of sperm and embryos (preservation of the normal function of cells via a reduction in temperature so that biochemical reactions cannot take place) and rederivation (involving isolation of a pre-implantation stage embryo for transfer to a clean recipient female) services ensure research continuity despite potential biosecurity concerns. Additionally, speed derivation can be used to yield a larger cohort size under the same health conditions.

Genetic integrity assurance program

Alongside health monitoring, it is also necessary for researchers to maintain the genetic integrity of their research models. Envigo’s three-tiered approach is the most comprehensive and transparent program in the industry.

+ The program involves comprehensive and frequent genetic monitoring to detect contamination or bottlenecking using single nucleotide polymorphism analysis (SNP), thereby combining speed, efficiency, and accuracy.

+ Envigo employs industry-standard breeding schemes alongside operational procedures that act to keep genetic divergence to a minimum. Inbred strains are maintained via a pyramid mating system that reduces the likelihood of cumulative drift, and heterogeneity of outbred stocks is achieved using a rotational system that ensures only unrelated animals are mated together.

+ Genetic drift – via spontaneous mutation, bottlenecking, migration, or epigenetic processes – is managed using a colony refreshing program, thereby optimizing genetic consistency within and between sites. 

In short, Envigo employs game-changing techniques in the art of contract breeding, so you can continue with the science. To speak with a specialist about your contract breeding needs, please contact us.