Five minutes with…
European Sales Director, Safety Assessment, Charles River
Chemisitry Today: Good afternoon Frank. Can you present a bit Charles River and its safety assessment services?
Visser: Charles River is a Contract Research Organization (CRO) and one of the largest safety assessment service providers for the pharmaceutical, chemical and agrochemical industries. It was founded 70 years ago in Boston as a provider of research animal models and, through organic growth and acquisition we are now a large, diverse company of around 11,000 people operating from 70 locations. The acquisition of WIL Research in 2016 expanded our portfolio of toxicology, eco-toxicology, environmental fate and physico-chemical testing and also brought in regulatory affairs.
CT: You support an impressive array of regulations worldwide.
Visser: Every country has its own regulatory regime. The range of chemicals subject to regulation is enormous, from biocides to industrial chemicals, fine chemicals, food additives, agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals. Within Europe there is one large regulatory regime, REACH, with just two exceptions, Switzerland and Turkey, who have their own chemical registration program. For companies that operate globally, and who take the approach of global product stewardship, REACH is a good starting point. We would suggest a review of global regulatory requirements including Europe, North America, Asia, and see how we can best approach the testing strategy to meet all these requirements at once.
CT: From a technical point of view, what kinds of tests you offer?
Visser: Although I don’t think any service provider in the world offers absolutely everything, we have a comprehensive and integrated portfolio of services. We can, for example, provide all the services required for chemical registration (such as REACH), for agrochemicals, biocides and for the pharmaceutical industry. As is the case with most industries there are always new challenges. Take the cosmetic industry, they are no longer permitted to perform in vivo testing in Europe, and this stimulated the development of many alternative techniques, such as in vitro, in chemico and in silico. Regulatory changes such as these are important drivers for the future.
CT: Speaking of alternative techniques. The evolution of these regulations depend also on the social and political climate, such as the increasing public demand to abandon animal testing. What challenges you see ahead?
Visser: The goal is to avoid the use of animal models wherever we can. We are still a long way away from attaining that goal, but there are many ethical initiatives being implemented by industry leaders such as ourselves, including the 3Rs: Refinement, Reduction and Replacement. Such initiatives help to reduce the number of animals used in safety assessment testing, year on year. The testing involved in the registration of phase-in substances under REACH for example, is extensive, and it is good to see that more and more alternative/in vitro tests are being approved.
CT: So you see a future where in vitro or in silico will be comparable to in vivo testing?
Visser: Yes, more and more. When REACH 2018 phase-in registration is done, there will be a large amount of data available on a wide range of substances so we may be able to avoid testing completely by using QSAR and read across approaches for new chemicals, which will be a very good development.
CT: What can Charles River offer that no one else can do?
Visser: Different businesses involve us at different stages of research, development and optimization. We can support every step of the way: from early molecular discovery and screening, to the use in the industry and we can tailor our service to a client’s exact requirement, whether it is for a single study or an entire chemical testing program, from first in vivo study to dossier production. That is where we stand out of the crowd. Other things that make us unique are the size of our portfolio, overall capacity, and global facilities. We also have a very low staff turnover so our clients can be assured of our stability as a company as well as benefit from the expertise of our staff scientists.