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Charles River Laboratories – Sherbrooke
Safety assessment of new medications and new drug discovery department
- Creation: 1947, since 2008 in Sherbrooke
- Employees Number: 110
- Target markets: Pharmaceutical // Biotechnology // Medical Technology
The Charles River Laboratories (CRL) site in Sherbrooke is an SME within a multinational that incorporates the best of both worlds. With its 110 employees and local management, the Sherbrooke business is both agile and innovative and can rely on the resources of a worldwide network.
“This is an enviable position that brings added value to our clients, as it enables us to meet the needs in preclinical research and new drug development of small biotech companies as well as major players who might require the top expertise and high-end equipment that we can access through our network,” emphasized Michael Broadhurst, who has been Site Director of CRL’S Preclinical Services in Sherbrooke for seven years.
Charles River Laboratories has a workforce of 8000 employees spread over more than 50 sites in 17 countries. With 86 000 sq. ft. over two floors, Sherbrooke’s facilities rank among the most modern, noted Mr. Broadhurst, who recently took on management of the new Shrewsbury site, near Boston.
Some offices in the Sherbrooke facilities have recently been converted into laboratories to help meet demand. Ten new laboratories were thus created last June, bringing the total up to 39. “All of these new labs were designated for specific clients before they were even operational. This expansion concretely reflects the upswing we have seen in the pharmaceutical industry during the last five quarters on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Charles River Sherbrooke has made a name for itself not only through its infrastructure, but also through its keen sense of innovation and continuous improvement. “We are an incubator of new and best practices! For example, as an SME it is easier for us to be more vigilant and flexible and consequently improve equipment and refine processes. We can then share our innovations with the rest of our network.”
A unique synergy
Established in the Sherbrooke Science Park since 2008, Charles River benefits from its close proximity to a number of stakeholders in the life sciences ecosystem, including its two neighbours, the Sherbrooke Molecular Imaging Centre (CIMS), and the Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke (CRCHUS – Research Centre).
“We have an exclusive agreement with the CIMS which enhances our services in toxicology. Its cutting-edge equipment provides us with very valuable data acquired through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), or CT-scans that help us better understand how the body reacts to medications that are under development.”
This is a unique partnership in North America for the vast Charles River family, as the group’s imaging service, focused primarily on the discovery of new medications, is based in Finland. Michael Broadhurst indicated that, in the long term, this entirely Sherbrooke-based collaboration could become open to requests from other North American Charles River sites.
A renowned labour force
Among the distinct advantages of the Sherbrooke facilities are its skilled workers – an asset recognized by CRL’s headquarters noted Mr. Broadhurst. For instance, his team is comprised of some 20 scientists and close to 70 laboratory and animal health technicians.
Charles River Sherbrooke also boasts a low rate of staff turnover. And when the company is in hiring mode – as it was recently with the creation of five new positions –, it can rely on a significant pool of high-level science and technology students and graduates from the numerous colleges and universities in Sherbrooke.
Each year, the company also takes on intern students in animal health and laboratory techniques, mainly from the Cégep de Sherbrooke college.
Clear horizon in the medium term
After many years of turbulence following the 2008 economic crisis, the pharmaceutical industry is recovering, noted Michael Broadhurst. “Investments and patent applications are on the rise in the biotechnology sector. The wave of mergers and acquisitions of pharmaceutical companies has slowed down, and these new businesses are now establishing themselves and have started investing in research once again by following the strong trend of outsourcing these activities. This new approach has led to an increase in demand for toxicology and safety studies, our main activity.”
If the recovery progresses as he foresees, a new expansion phase may be in store for Charles River Sherbrooke: “After our internal growth, the next step in the medium term will be to increase the square foot surface of our facilities through the construction of a new building.”
To get through the stormy context that arose at the time of its opening, the Sherbrooke facility swiftly focused on its efficiency in conducting studies, its keenness for innovation, and the diversification of its activities.
Since 2010, Charles River Sherbrooke has therefore been providing a new service for discovering new drugs prior to preclinical studies. Through certain mandates, the Sherbrooke team is researching new active ingredients that might be taken to the next preclinical step. It is also able to analyze the pharmacological properties of innovative compounds identified by clients. “This new area of investigation now accounts for 20% of our activities.”
The toxicological assessment and drug discovery services provided in Sherbrooke by Charles River Laboratories are used by numerous pharmaceutical and biotechnology leaders.
With its worldwide presence, CRL itself is a leader in the discovery and development of new drugs. As proof, 50% of the drugs currently on the market have gone through one of its laboratories!
It must be pointed out that the multinational is active in a vast range of therapeutic fields: cardiovascular diseases, ophthalmology, the central nervous system, respiratory diseases, inflammation, metabolic diseases, musculoskeletal diseases, and oncology.
The research in Sherbrooke is conducted mainly for the American market – 70% –, and another 20% is for Canadian subsidiaries of multinationals. A small percentage of contracts come from elsewhere in the world.
Like all companies conducting in vivo preclinical assessments on the toxicity and effectiveness of a drug candidate, Charles River Sherbrooke meets very high standards. Its laboratories have been accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC) and the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC).
Management has also voluntarily created a committee linked to the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (IACUC Central). Comprised of internal and external representatives, it examines each research protocol and assesses the care provided to the animals.
The facilities are also inspected and approved by Health Canada, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in terms of “Good Laboratory Practices” (GLP).
1580 Ida-Métivier Street, Sherbrooke (Québec) J1E 0B5 Canada
+1 819 346-8200
Photo credit: Sherbrooke Innopole and Charles River Laboratories
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