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startups, Adox says the number of players in small animal imaging is very small. Plus they don’t offer the breadth of imaging technologies found in MIR’s arsenal, he says. Drug firms prefer a range of such technologies because they want to see how their therapies impact animals from multiple vantage points, Adox says.
Adox also says MIR could anchor Michigan’s drug community in much the same way Detroit’s auto supply network anchors the state’s car industry.
MIR executives say they are entering the market at the right time. The company’s imaging technologies will help drug firms use fewer animals and produce superior results, says MIR chairman Stephen Sullivan. He is a former CEO of Harlan Laboratories, one of the country’s largest contract research organizations (CRO) for drug makers and a top competitor to Charles River Laboratories.
Normally, drug firms test their therapies at six, 12 and 18 month intervals, using a different set of animals as the baseline for each period, Sullivan says.
With advanced imaging, a company can test a drug on a group of animals, examine the data after six months, and then resume the same therapy on the same animals for another 12 months, he says. That means a company could ultimately use a third less animals than it does today.
“One of the real benefits for imaging is that you can use far less animals for research and get far better data,” Sullivan says. “You get data on the same group of animals for the whole life of the study. Every company in the pharma world is committed to using as few animals as possible.”
“You may be wondering ‘Gee, this is so obvious, why doesn’t everyone do this?'” he continued. “Most of the drugs in development today are being compared to existing drugs, which were developed with these prior methods. [Drug companies] can be very slow and conservative [with animal testing] because you can be comparing apples with oranges.”
Ludlam says MIR enjoys the advantage of working in a space where pharma companies don’t yet feel the pressure of regulators and investors.
“One of the things that we are counting on here is that we are operating in the early stage clinical environment,” he says. “This is really science for informational purposes.”
Added Sullivan: “One of the advantages for being a first mover is that you can define the space.”
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