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Research Models
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Julie Freebersyser, DVM

The CRADL™ Advantage in Early-Stage Research

How COVID-19 brought into stark relief the need for sustainable vivarium operations

Imagine being at a pivotal moment, discovering a promising target for a new cancer drug, only to have your lab shut down due to a pandemic. That was the reality last year for many small biotech companies that independently manage and operate their own vivarium. Experiments paused almost overnight and companies were left scrambling to secure resources to continue advancing their scientific pipeline or be forced to come up with alternative options including temporary site closure.

The COVID-19 crisis brought into stark relief the need for sustainable operations that could outlive the next disruption and help to secure the consistent flow of research. Even large pharma companies with expansive infrastructure found themselves in a difficult situation, unprepared at first to deal with what the pandemic was wreaking—lockdown for some and rapid shifts toward COVID-19 projects for others, limiting vivarium capacity for on-going scientific projects.

Some companies were able to shift the care of their animals to outside service providers who had the infrastructure to house the animals and were able to remain operational during the many months of uncertainty.

So, looking ahead, might we see more companies use outside vendors or service providers to house and care for their animals? Will we see small biotechs lean more on the flexibility of rentable space and services for their early-stage research projects?

My responses would be yes and yes.

Maintaining inhouse vivariums is costly

Even before a pandemic, the life sciences industry had been witnessing an upward trend of startups looking for alternative sites for their lab animal research programs, including renting of vivarium space. Many companies found that the capital investment and time required to build or renovate, as well as manage and operate, an accredited animal research facility was a significant barrier to overcome in their quest to make a scientific impact.

Anyone conducting research knows how costly it can be to build and maintain their research space, and how quickly it can drain precious dollars from their R&D budget. Many simply cannot afford the building costs and staff needed to care for research animals 24/7. COVID-19 put an exclamation point on all of this, because few companies can absorb the loss of having to pause their research when disaster strikes, as it did when SARS-CoV-2 derailed legions of research projects.

To overcome this challenge, many have been turning to companies that can provide customized workspace solutions that can be seamlessly integrated into their research program. By choosing to utilize turnkey vivarium services, companies can eliminate the costs of capital investment, rent, personnel, training, and management while relying on vivarium experts to ensure compliance and business continuity. At the same time, it can ensure that a company’s research milestones occur on time and within budget.

Charles River, for instance, has several Accelerator and Development Labs (CRADL™) in Cambridge, Massachusetts and South San Francisco, California—two major biotech hubs—that partner to provide vivarium infrastructure, staffing expertise, training, consulting, and research technical support services to help clients streamline their discovery and development programs. During the past year, under enhanced safety protocols, CRADL™ has maintained uninterrupted vivarium services during these turbulent times and has successfully provided essential housing services for research animals and even assisted in the execution of pivotal studies for scientists under their direct guidance while they may have been forced to work from home.

Demand for CRADL™ sites growing

The demand for these kinds of services continues to grow and is so great that we have more than doubled our new inquires and clientele in the past year and are actively expanding into additional sites in biotech hubs throughout 2021 and 2022 to further provide infrastructure and expert services to those scientific communities. The current CRADL™ Binney St. location in Cambridge, MA will be expanding this year along with opening of a second site on Bent St in November 2021. Our second South San Francisco location on Gateway Blvd will be opening in Q2 of 2022.

The evolving landscape of animal research and today’s current challenges—who knows when the next crisis will hit—call for innovative solutions to keep progressing research forward and providing hope for patients. The turnkey vivarium solution provides a cutting-edge way to perform your animal research under your own terms, with your scientific expertise and oversight, while allowing greater flexibility for need-based growth and investing precious funding dollars into your research portfolio and strategy.

Invest in your research instead of infrastructure; check us out at https://cradl.criver.com/

Julie Freebersyser DVM, DACLAM is the Director of CRADL Operations. She has spent over 15 years in the industry with vivarium expertise in academic, pharmaceutical, and CRO settings.