genOway, which came to the fore last year when it became it succeeded in producing the world's first cloned rats, specialises in developing GM laboratory mice and rats that can serve as models for human diseases. It is also developing a proprietary nuclear transfer technology to create 'knock-out' rats - in which genes of interest are deleted - that can be used to explore disease mechanisms.
Under the terms of the three-year agreement, Charles River Labs, one the of world's biggest suppliers of laboratory animals, will market and promote genOway's processes for developing research models to clients of its European Transgenic Services business.
The companies estimate that the agreement will result in a 45 per cent shorter development time for such models while using the same budget as classical models, according to a statement.
Earlier this year, genOway was involved in the establishment of a research consortium to bring together pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies with the objective of developing animals with specific genetic modifications (so-called knock-out and knock-in rats), that could be used in the discovery of drugs for diseases such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes and neurological disorders.
It also recently signed an agreement with Pfizer, the world's largest drug company, to provide Pfizer researchers in the US with a genetically modified rat model based on its nuclear transfer technology. This was the French company's second partnership to generate conditional knock-out and knock-in rat models, after a similar agreement with Germany's Altana.
Given the similarity between rat and human physiology, the rat is a crucial animal model for the study of many human diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, obesity and diabetes. Nuclear transfer is the only technology able to generate complex genetically modified rat models such as conditional knock-out and humanisation: others - such as chemical mutagenesis - can only introduce mutations in the genome.
A discussion of the value that can be achieved using genetically modified rats in research is available here on the US National Institutes of Health website.