Charles River and Sanofi collab to replace animals with virtual controls in preclinical research

Charles River Laboratories and Sanofi are working on a new project in which virtual control animals will take the place of live ones in preclinical research, the companies announced June 5. No terms or financial details were disclosed. 

“We have an unmatched breadth of data, providing a powerful database of study parameters,” Shannon Parisotto, corporate executive vice president of global discovery and safety assessment at Charles River, said in a press release. “By leveraging this historical information, we are able to reduce control group animals and provide clients with meaningful study results.”

Control groups are used in research as a baseline to which subjects in treatment groups are compared. The idea behind virtual control groups, or VCGs, is that because there are plenty of control data already from previous studies, data from treatment groups can simply be compared to that historical information. VCG models have been developed for use in clinical trials, and pharmas including Sanofi, Roche, Bayer and others have researched ways to apply them to animal studies. 

Under its partnership with Sanofi, Charles River will combine machine learning and toxicology to create VCGs. The initiative is part of a broader effort launched by Charles River in April called the Alternative Methods Advancement Project, a $300 million, five-year program to research animal testing alternatives.