January 1, 2015 (Vol. 35, No. 1)
World, in Need of Advanced Rodent Models, May Beat a Path to Taconic Biosciences’ Door
When Taconic Farms changed its name to Taconic Biosciences in late 2014, it signified a conscious decision to match the corporate name to its modern product line of sophisticated rodent models for the life sciences industry.
“Our business evolved from a supplier of outbred albino mice 60 years ago to a developer of increasingly sophisticated rodent models, including genetically engineered, humanized, and immunodeficient mice and rats,” says company CEO Robert J. Rosenthal, Ph.D. As it achieved ever greater sophistication, Taconic started outgrowing its original name.
The rebranding reflects Taconic’s bioscience core competencies of genetically modified model management, genetic modification, cell and tissue humanization, and custom model generation.
“This is more than just a name and logo change,” Dr. Rosenthal insists. “This sets us on a different path and signals our intention to be a broader supplier across rodent model areas.” The rebranding, he suggests, is meant to highlight Taconic’s expanded capabilities, services, and consulting options within the company’s core competencies.
In 2014, for example, Taconic introduced an enhanced, precisely defined “Excluded Flora” health standard that enables researchers to select rodent lines that are free of specific commensal organisms. It also has replaced its single-letter genotyping codes with new codes that document both alleles, so researchers can determine the zygosity of an animal and whether it is a humanized or knockout model.
The Taconic Biosciences website also has been revamped to be more informative for customers as they evaluate models for their projects.
A deep understanding of the genetic causes of disease states and susceptibilities is vital, not only for drug developers, but also for the scientists who create the rodent models that are key to drug development. With this knowledge, Taconic can design, for example, humanized mice to gain insights into disease mechanisms and better predict a human response to therapeutic compounds that are susceptible to particular compounds, thereby tailoring the model to the research need.
Last June, “Taconic Biosciences became the first company to obtain the CRISPR/Cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) license from the Broad Institute for gene editing,” Dr. Rosenthal points out. CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing enables precise genetic alterations and has been adapted as a tool to identify gene functions.
Basically, CRISPR uses RNA guides that are bound to the Cas9 enzyme to target specific gene sequences. When a match is found, the enzyme cuts that DNA sequence to either disrupt that gene’s function or to introduce point mutations.
“We’ve incorporated CRISPR to provide the broadest capabilities in terms of editing genes and of editing them as quickly as possible,” Dr. Rosenthal says. The CRISPR approach shaves about 12 weeks from the process of generating novel rodent models, he adds.
Taconic Biosciences offers many services to help clients manage their genetically engineered modes. For example, the company’s scientists can guide clients to the most advantageous model, the one that best balances speed, risk, and cost.
“Our Ph.D.s work directly with customers to evaluate the research questions they’re trying to answer, weigh the advantages or disadvantages of particular technologies and models, and help clients select the model most likely to achieve their goals, thus helping them better allocate their resources,” declares Dr. Rosenthal. “That’s a major point of differentiation.”
During the past several years, the need for such models has increased, and will continue to increase, he predicts: “Customers are looking for models that help them elucidate a drug’s mechanism of action, interactions, or physiological aspects. Researchers need more sophisticated models that help them shorten the drug discovery timeline.”
To expedite drug discovery, researchers can use models that include or exclude elements that are capable of quickly revealing which projects should be advanced or discontinued. Models that have either knockout or humanized genes for drug transport are one example.
The use of highly specific models also allows researchers to use fewer animals in their work. “Because our models are tied to specific areas of investigation, scientists need fewer animals to achieve results,” Dr. Rosenthal explains.
Taconic also takes pains to ensure animal welfare as many models are shipped globally. It developed the Taconic Transit Cage, which it has since out-licensed, and ships in environmentally controlled transport vehicles. Importantly, Taconic has facilities in the United States, Denmark, and Germany and relationships with distributors in Japan, South Korea, India, and Singapore.
Taconic values its role in the development of rodent models used by researchers at the forefront of medicine. Such work, says Dr. Rosenthal, puts the company in an exciting place: “We get to see what’s coming in terms of drug discovery and development as well as in emerging areas of interest. We’re plugged into leading academics and institutions globally—including NASA, which has sent animals from Taconic Biosciences into space. We have longstanding relationships and very open dialogs with our customers.”
Through its collaborations with thought leaders and its access to cutting-edge insights, Taconic can prepare its product lines to meet customer’s coming challenges.
Location: One Hudson City Centre, Hudson, NY 12534
Phone: (518) 697-3900
Principal: Robert J. Rosenthal, Ph.D., CEO
Number of Employees: 800
Focus: Taconic Biosciences is a global supplier of genetically engineered and humanized rodent models for life sciences research. The company helps clients select, acquire, custom generate, breed, test, prepare, and distribute these sophisticated research lines.