Charles River Labs, CHDI Foundation pen boosted Huntington's disease pact

Charles River
Charles River Labs and the CHDI Foundation will continue their long-term work on the progressive, neurological Huntington's disease. (Charles River)

Charles River Laboratories and the privately funded nonprofit biomedical research organization CHDI Foundation have signed a five-year extension for their Huntington’s disease work.

This pact goes all the way back to 2005 and is based on drug discovery and development efforts for the genetic neurological disease that causes the progressive dysfunction of nerve cells in the brain.

“The extension will allow more flexible activity across the different Charles River platforms and entail greater integration into CHDI’s programs,” the pair said in a joint release.

The updated deal will cover a number of services from across Charles River’s portfolio, including complex primary neuronal assay development, high-content and fragment-based screening, computational chemistry and more.

Over the past 14 years, the two have sought out and found a series of new and potential drug targets, bred and validated translational research animal models, run large screens and generated proof-of-concept molecules while also working on the potential efficacy of both small-molecule and biologic candidates in preclinical models of Huntington’s.

Financial terms of the extension have not been released.

Birgit Girshick, corporate executive vice president for discovery and safety assessment, biologics testing solutions and avian vaccine services at Charles River, said: “Our longstanding partnership with CHDI is built on our mutual commitment to developing novel therapies for Huntington’s disease. As an organization, our work with CHDI has led to a much larger commitment to support the HD research community, through investments in methodologies, tools and personnel dedicated to this rare disease.”

CRL has been teaming up with a host of biopharmas and service providers, including artificial intelligence specialist Atomise and Crown Bioscience, and it recently bought out Citoxlab.

But it’s not all been spend, spend, spend; last month, we revealed the CRO said it was cutting about 24 jobs as it swung the ax on its San Diego site.

“Charles River’s early drug discovery team has continuously delivered scientific expertise that enables our drug discovery research to produce more efficient results. We are excited to continue our research and work toward delivering a meaningful treatment to patients,” said Robi Blumenstein, president of the CHDI Foundation.

Huntington's is a tough target, with a series of failures and setbacks hitting researchers over the years, most recently from Active Bio and Teva Pharmaceutical’s laquinimod, which missed the mark in a phase 2 trial last summer. There is hope for new drugs from the latest tech, however, such as CRISPR gene-editing platforms, though it's still very early days.