Preclinical Neuroscience CRO

Our dedicated team of preclinical neuroscience CRO experts want the same thing as you do: to find a cure for the devastating diseases of the central nervous system. From basic research to regulatory approval, we have the leading science, range of services, and collaborative approach you need to discover and develop novel therapies. How can we support your program?

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Still-shot of the video of neurons that serves as the neuroscience microsite backdrop.

Disease Areas

CNS drug discovery isn't for the faint of heart. We can't be deterred by clinical failures, but it's clear that some approaches aren't working. It's time to start over, building upon the foundations of our current research. It's time to explore new tools and techniques, gathering the data that drives confident decisions in the earliest stages of development. It's time to break through with discovery of new, long-awaited therapies. Collaboration is key, as we pool knowledge and share experience that will allow us all to reach our goals.

 

 

Browse All Neuroscience Resources

 

Preclinical Neuroscience Research Services

Charles River drug discovery uses large compound libraries and high throughput screening (HTS) technology for the identification of hit compounds and assay development.

High-Throughput Screening

Utilizing vast compound libraries, chemists use high-throughput screening to rapidly identify promising compounds for neuroscience target validation and identification.


Antisense Oligonucleotide (ASO) Screening

ASO screens can be designed to evaluate a variety of proven mechanism of action approaches for antisense oligonucleotide therapy. To date, we’ve developed ASO screening assays primarily for rare neurodegenerative disorders.

Binding of antisense oligonucleotide to RNA for use in Antisense oligonucleotide therapy.

Medicinal chemistry (medchem) and pharmaceutical chemistry services are critical to drive your drug discovery project and Charles River chemists have the experience and knowledge to bring compounds of interest to clinic faster.

Medicinal Chemistry

Modern medicinal chemistry is highly multidisciplinary, driving CNS drug discovery innovation from novel synthesis and delivery to screening. Small molecule and large molecule CNS targets range from GPCRs to kinase inhibitors and have proven useful for studying diseases of neurodegeneration such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.


High Content Imaging

In CNS research, we use high content imaging to characterize stem cell-derived neuronal lineages and a host of validated assays like apoptosis, autophagy, protein aggregation, cell or mitochondrial motility and migration, epigenetic modifications, maker expression, protein acetylation and phosphorylation, receptor internalization and degradation, sub-cellular localization and translocation of transcription factors.

High Content Imaging using Multiplex Cell Painting. HeLa cells stained with six fluorescent dyes after exposure to Colchicine therapy.

Image of stem cells such as functional engineered human cells iPS cells are used to develop custom cell-based assays for drug screening.

Human iPSCs

Generating induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) for neurological disease-relevant assays, coupled with specific differentiation protocols for production of neurons and/or astrocytes, improves translation to in vivo models.


CRISPR Gene Editing

CRISPR Cas9 gene editing has transformed drug discovery and development. It has been used successfully for editing the Huntington CAG repeat in human iPSCs and for high-content screening of disease-relevant in vitro assays for ALS.

illustration of genetic engineering and gene manipulation used in CRISPR Cas 9 technology

Charles River proteomics services include sample extraction, protein fractionation, peptide fractionation, mass spectrometry.

Proteomics

Neurological disease research and drug discovery uses proteomics to search for disease or pharmacological signatures. This allows us to understand biological mechanisms and identify specific proteins and their modifications, e.g., ubiquitination or phosphorylation in Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease models.


Ion Channel Profiling

Our ion channel assays guide your early screening investigations and selectivity profiling with 120 targets organized in functionally-validated disease areas. CNS-focused Channel Panels™ include pain, psychiatric disorders, neurodegeneration, and seizure disorders.

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CRISPR mice and rats

CRISPR Mice and Rats

Using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to create unique rat and mouse models of neurological disease offers the advantages of time savings, reduction in animal use, and improved overall cost-effectiveness.

 


RNAi Mouse Models

Where small molecule drug therapy has failed, RNA interference has emerged to silence specific genes such as those identified for genetic neurodegenerative disorders like spinocerebellar ataxia and Huntington’s disease.

 

brown mouse

Neurological Surgical Procedure

Neurological Surgical Procedures

Our skilled veterinary surgeons and technicians perform a comprehensive selection of procedures for rats, mice, guinea pigs, and large animals, including bilateral brain cannulation, microdialysis probe implantation, spinal nerve ligation, 6-OHDA Parkinson’s disease lesion models, and more.

 


Research Models

You can reduce attrition rates with animal models that closely mimic neurological diseases. We can support your neuroscience research with a range of standard and custom in vivo pharmacology models for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, psychiatric disorders, pain, brain injuries, and more.

 

animal technician working with research models in an isolator using ICM

Bacteria Lactobacillus, gram-positive rod-shaped lactic acid bacteria. Our microbiome research and diagnostic services are used to ensure germ free animal health status which are part of the human microbiome

Microbiome & Next Generation Sequencing

In recent years, the connection between the gut microbiome on host physiology and the onset of neurological disease has become recognized as an important area of interest. Next generation sequencing can assess the biodiversity of your animal colony and research experiments.


CRADL

The Charles River Accelerator and Development Lab (CRADL™) offers turnkey vivarium rental space for both emerging and well-established biotech companies. Two locations, CRADL™ East in Cambridge, MA and CRADL™ West in South San Francisco, CA, serve researchers on both coasts of the United States.

 

CRADL facility.
An image of the synaptic cleft of two neurons firing to demonstrate neuronal electrophysiology studies.

Electrophysiology

Assessing the functional activity of your neuronal cell cultures, brain slices, or tissue can be cumbersome. Whatever your therapeutic area – neuromuscular, schizophrenia, neuropathic pain, or epilepsy – we have the equipment and expertise to conduct automated patch-clamp electrophysiology and multi-electrode array studies.

 


Neurological Imaging

Neurological small animal imaging methodologies have the potential to dramatically increase the efficiency of lead candidate selection by providing earlier and more highly predictive data. See what state-of-the-art noninvasive preclinical imaging like pharmacological MRI, nuclear, and functional ultrasound imaging can add to your program.

 

Scientist looking through a microscope

neuron

Behavioral Testing

Measuring behavioral changes is widely used for neurological diseases associated with cognition, psychiatric disorders, and neurodegeneration. This method is especially powerful when performed together with in vivo assays that assess neurochemical changes in the same animal.

 


Microdialysis

Microdialysisis a noninvasive method for collecting CSF and other fluid samples from the brain or tissues of awake animals. Samples are typically analyzed using LC-MS to assess neurochemical metabolites, therapeutic efficacy windows, or fluid biomarkers.

 

Scientist pouring blue liquid from a flask.

Illustration of a brain

Fine Motor Kinematic Analysis

Impairment of motor skills is used as an early diagnosis marker in neuromuscular and neurodegenerative diseases. To test therapeutic compounds in animal models, characterizing fine motor impairment can reveal early changes in disease models and provide an opportunity to pharmacologically manipulate.

 


Touchscreen Testing

Cognitive changes are challenging to measure in animal models. Touchscreen testing measures mouse behavior by recording a mouse’s actions and screen touch responses to images and locations on a computer screen.

 

Illustration of touchscreen testing chamber where mice perform nose pokes at lighted windows and receive a food reward when task is performed correctly. This method is used to perform cognitive neuroscience tests and measures cognitive decline in models of neurodegenerative disease.

Illustration of neurons.

Neurochemistry

We can study neurotransmitters and metabolites from many different types of biological matrices using a variety of bioanalytical tools such as LC-MS, electrochemical detection, or fluorescence detection.

 


Bioanalysis

From CNS early discovery through clinical sample analysis, we continually develop and validate comprehensive bioanalysis (via mass spectrometry, immunohistochemistry, cell-based assays, flow cytometry, molecular biology, PK/PD, and biomarker) assays to meet the ever-changing demand of innovative drugs through the pipeline.

Bioanalytical services include careful preparation of reference standards for a validated bioanalytical method standard curve to quantitate biological samples for drug concentrations in both clinical and preclinical bioanalysis.

Lab tech in a Charles River clinical pathology lab holding a test tube filled with serum for analysis.

Biomarkers

Predictive biomarkers are critical tools in CNS drug discovery and development, as they assess activity of candidate therapeutics and validate targets to provide mechanism of action, therapeutic efficacy, and toxicity.

Photo of round, white pills

Abuse and Dependence Liability Testing

Any new chemical entity that penetrates or targets sites in the central nervous system requires an assessment for abuse and liability. Our specialized neurobehavioral testing strategies can help you assess CNS-mediated effects in compliance with both international health and drug control guidelines.


Neuropathology

Services in neuropathology range from whole-body perfusions to specialized staining capabilities. Our skilled team of pathologists regularly assists with study design, development strategies, and regulatory submissions for a wide variety of compounds affecting the nervous system.

Illustration of neurons.

Neurons

Neurotoxicity Testing

Testing your therapy for adverse effects on the chemistry, structure, or function of the nervous system is critical. Our neurotoxicology program is dedicated to a broad range of products from biologics to small and large molecules in both rodent and nonrodent species.


ADME & DMPK

Our comprehensive suite of in vitro assays and in-life capabilities enable the design of compounds that penetrate the tight junctions of the blood-brain barrier whilst avoiding efflux by transporters such as p-gp. This is imperative to achieve sufficient free-drug exposure in the brain to exhibit a pharmacological effect.

Pharmacokinetics is a key component of DMPK ADME studies. A male technician in safety gear reviews dosing and sampling of studies to determine the pharmacokinetic profile of promising compounds. Standard data generated includes time to Cmax, tmax, t1/2 elimination, and AUC.

A male technician in safety gear reviews dosing and sampling of studies

Safety Pharmacology Studies

We incorporate both in vitro and in vivo models and assays into our toxicology and safety pharmacology studies. These range from in vitro electrophysiology assays that assess potential risks for specific neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases such as Huntington’s disease or neuropathic pain, to the design of FOB/Irwin screening in animal models.


Stereology

From early discovery to animal model development to safety assessment, quantification of neuronal subpopulations and other central nervous system components can be a vital endpoint. Because the brain is such a unique and heterogeneous tissue, unbiased stereology is the only way to accurately quantify its structures.

Sterology.