Q&A: Charles River Laboratories helps navigate the waters of immunotherapy
Recently, Bill Barbo, senior vice president of global sales and marketing for Charles River Laboratories, took time to talk with DDNews about such things as his company’s acquisition of WIL Research and the role Charles River is playing in advancing immunotherapy research.
Manipulating the immune system to keep cancer in check has sparked a wave of new therapies that fall under the umbrella of immunotherapy. Here’s how Charles River is participating:
DDNews Could you tell us a bit more about Charles River, its origins and, broadly, speaking its future plans?
Bill Barbo: Charles River Laboratories began 70 years ago as a small Boston-based supplier of a new standard of laboratory animal models, but is now a fully-integrated contract research organization accelerating the search for therapeutics that lead to a healthier life. We are a global company with facilities around the world and capabilities spanning each phase of drug discovery and development.
DDNews: What did the acquisition of WIL Research add to Charles River’s capabilities?
Barbo: Adding WIL Research’s capabilities enhances Charles River’s position as a leading early-stage CRO through the addition of high-quality services, scientific expertise and an enhanced geographic reach, which positions us exceptionally well in the safety assessment market. It provides additional capabilities and global infrastructure to support current client demand and future growth. WIL also increases our interface with small and mid-size biotech, which is our fastest-growing client segment, and provides a larger presence with agricultural and industrial chemical clients.
DDNews: How did WIL recommend itself as a potential partner?
Barbo: We have always had a lot of respect for WIL and, over the years, have always thought of them as a good fit. We have shared values and a commitment to keeping client focus as our primary goal. WIL also reinforces our scientific leadership, adding a wealth of talent with deep expertise in specialized areas. Additionally, WIL’s contract development and manufacturing (CDMO) business represents a new capability for Charles River, one that enables us to offer broader support for our clients’ drug research efforts.
DDNews: What have been some of the innovations powering cancer drug discovery that are important to Charles River?
Barbo: Manipulating the immune system to keep cancer in check has sparked a wave of new therapies that fall under the umbrella of immunotherapy, such as various monoclonal antibody treatments, cancer vaccines, checkpoint inhibitors and, more recently, cellular therapies including CAR-T. Charles River has validated tools to evaluate most program types and to make go/no-go decisions in the most efficient and expedited manner, including an extensive range of synergetic models characterized with key checkpoint inhibitors, humanized mouse models and flow cytometry and imaging endpoints.
DDNews: How are humanized mice being used in the study of immunotherapies at Charles River?
Barbo: CRL is currently focused on using humanized models for pharmacology studies rather than producing them for sale. We have run client studies using both the human PBMC and the CD 34+ hematopoietic stem cell models and are investigating transgenic models expressing factors like hGM-CSF/hIL-3, hIL-2/hIL-15 and hIL-6.
DDNews: Beyond establishing a CDMO what’s next for Charles River?
Barbo: Well we actually added a CDMO with the WIL acquisition. As for what lies ahead, Charles River is always looking for new and exciting ways to expand all of our businesses, and as such opportunities arise we fully expect to pursue them.
William D. Barbo began his career at Charles River Laboratories in 1982 as a research scientist and progressed through a number of business management positions of increasing responsibility during the years that followed. In 2005, he was promoted to corporate vice president of research model services. In 2009, Barbo played an integral role in the global sales organization, living and working in Europe as corporate vice president of global strategic accounts and European specialist sales. In 2010, he returned to corporate headquarters in Wilmington, Mass., to lead the company’s commercial organization as corporate senior vice president of global sales and marketing.