In Charles River’s 70-year history, we’ve seen little that compares to the disruption wrought by COVID-19, and yet decades of serving the industry have prepared us to handle the specific challenges we now face. “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,” said Wilbert Frieling, PhD. Charles River’s Corporate Senior Vice President of Discovery Services recently shared his experience in a roundtable discussion with fellow leaders in the pharmaceutical industry, weighing in on the current climate for Pharma’s Almanac. Gathered from working with clients through the pandemic, his observations continue to help shape and refine our organization’s rigorous business continuity plans.
As a global CRO, we’ve long relied on our connections and collaboration across a vast scientific community, equally accessing and distributing resources where they’re needed most. From sourcing, to staffing, to digital technologies we’ve continued to maximize the reach of existing tools and invest in new solutions to ensure our clients receive seamless, uninterrupted service. So how are we handling the pandemic? Here are just a few of our initiatives:
In the face of global shutdowns, Charles River’s longstanding Vendor Quality Program (VQP) has ramped up operations in recent months to assess and audit approved vendors. Active outreach has strengthened relationships with existing vendors whose service has been affected by the virus, while the VQP’s new “Virtual and Self Audit” approach to performing these evaluations is a responsible, reliable way to approve new vendors and ensure quality product and service delivery through outside providers.
Led by our Lead Supplies Task Team, Procurement has been hard at work contacting suppliers to determine their financial stability and ongoing ability to provide goods and services. In some cases, we’ve leveraged global relationships based on the economics of scale to ensure priority access to limited supplies like PPE; in others, we’ve identified additional suppliers and helped bring them up to speed. Procurement continues to monitor key supplies for optimal distribution throughout our organization.
As manager of our Specialist Logistics Services team, Sebastian Tomlin routinely advises clients on how to navigate the regulations and complexities of shipping sensitive biomaterials and supplies when it’s business as usual. In an era of pandemic, Tomlin notes the significant time and investment needed to expedite logistics when first-line resources are compromised. Thus, during a global crisis, the experience of his team is a critical factor in our clients’ success. Industry publication PharmTech recently sought Tomlin’s expertise for an article on managing a safe and robust supply of pharma materials.
The impact of COVID-19 on the pharmaceutical industry is seen prominently in the decisions and actions of regulatory authorities around the globe. Our unique Regulatory Advisory Group has been in overdrive, actively monitoring the issues released by these governing bodies. Their continued efforts help us to translate and communicate regulatory expectations to our clients so they can maintain compliance with evolving mandates.
Long before travel restrictions, we've offered Sponsors the opportunity to perform their due diligence activities virtually through the convenience of the remote audit. The need for social distance has incentivized more clients to take advantage of this flexible solution, and so we have increased the capacity of the digital platforms that make such “visits” possible. From secure document sharing to virtual tours and meetings, remote audits allow clients to oversee their studies and keep their timelines on track.
Charles River has also continued to forge strategic partnerships and invest in cloud-based technologies that foster collaboration and connect clients to their projects when working remotely. Our recent agreement with Deciphex brings digital pathology solutions to the table, streamlining slide analysis and pathology peer review. The new Patholytix platform is just one of the many technologies we’ve brought online to ensure our clients’ programs can continue without delay.
Charles River has a long history of commitment to the humane care and wellbeing of all the animals we work with, and this has not wavered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lifesaving research depends upon these animals and while we are still adjusting to a new normal, our employees have embraced the challenge and continue to find ways to refine practices in support of the 3Rs. Global Animal Welfare & Training is implementing new ways to communicate with our internal and external customers by expanding our reach with virtual workshops. We are conducting virtual site visits to continue our oversight responsibilities as travel remains limited. We have streamlined reporting processes for animal welfare questions or concerns and are integrating our new sites into our Humane Care Imperative program.
The pandemic has caused additional stress for many of our employees, so to help care for the people who care for the animals, we are implementing the Charles River Compassion, Awareness, Resilience and Engagement (C.A.R.E.S) program to support them through peer counseling and local enagement efforts.
Keep Your Research Going
COVID-19 continues to cast a long shadow, and no one knows when it will fade. But, as science evolves, so do we.
We continue to anticipate and adapt to new challenges as they arise with a renewed commitment to keep critical research moving forward. How can we keep your research going?