Crown teamed up with the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica (SIMM) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in November, announcing its intention to set up a “mouse clinical trial” centre that will develop cancer models for both the local and global markets.
“The purpose is to enable human surrogate trials to be run, equivalent to a Phase II-like Clinical Trial study, but in mice” spokesman Jon Waterman Smith told Outsourcing-pharma.com, adding that SIMM approached the contract research organisation (CRO) as a result of its established presence in China.
The intial focus will be to combine Crown's library of patient derived xenograft (PDX) models with those developed by SIMM researchers. Secondary projects will involve the development of new models of major Asian cancer types, including liver (HCC), lung (NSCLC), gastric (GC) and colorectal (CRC) cancers.
“SIMM received significant funding from the Chinese government to specifically support this project, and SIMM selected Crown Bioscience at their partner for this project due to our significant experience and expertise in developing and managing such collections. Since Crown Bioscience’s main facilities for such studies are in China, China is a natural starting point for such a unique venture.”
Smith also said that: “Crown will continue to expand our organisation to keep pace with planned developments in support this venture,” but did not say how many people the firm will employ at the centre directly.
The deal is one of a number of recent investments by Western developers of preclinical animal models in China.
Last November, for example, Charles River Laboratories bought back into the Chinese by acquiring a stake in Beijing-based Vital River in move that reversed its pullback from the market a year earlier when it sold its research models site to Shangpharma.
Similarly, in September last year Wuxi Pharmatech partnered with US transgenic animal model firm Open Monoclonal Technology (OMT). More recently Wuxi licensed PDX mouse models from the Mayo Clinic to broaden its offering.
The latter deal means that Crown and partner SIMM will be in direct competition with Wuxi in the PDX market. However, Smith is confident Crown can make its mark in the growing sector.
“Crown Bioscience is much more than a generic contract fee-for-service organisation” he said, adding that “we are a strong, successful and unique business focused on providing innovative platforms for drug discovery and translational medicine in Oncology and CVMD."
He also said that: “We believe SIMM’s confidence in selecting Crown Bioscience as their partner for such an important venture speaks volumes for our business strength and strategy.”