Envigo announces the launch of a dedicated Science and Technology Advisory Group (STAG) to drive forward emerging areas of research and to collaborate with customers to develop new technologies.
The STAG group will run across all service offerings of Envigo – including pharmaceutical development, research models and services, as well as crop protection and chemicals testing.
The key goal behind the new group is to advance Envigo’s commitment to developing the next generation of research services, technology and science. As such, the group will sponsor internal programmes designed to develop new or improve existing capabilities. Selected external partnerships will also be explored – including collaborations with academia through postdoctoral sponsorship, placement and combined research – along with offering science and technology development services to customers.
Brian Burlinson, Deputy Chair of the STAG, commented: “We are encouraging our scientists to put forward new projects for funding, acting as an internal innovation incubator, but also, we are going out to market and asking our customers if they have research problems they would like us to develop into commercial solutions. However, it’s not just about today’s problems, as we are also partnering with universities, both on developing new science and offering work placements to graduates… our ethos is to instil a culture of new science that permeates all areas of the business.”
Since its inception the group has already reviewed 16 internal applications and spoken with several external partners. One area that is showing a number of promising projects is non-animal testing (NAT) for toxicology – in vitro or silico – as these solutions have the dual benefits of derisking drug development and meeting the desire for reduced animal use.
“The aim is to generate a balanced portfolio of projects into an annualised programme. Five projects have already been preliminarily approved for development – with more in the pipeline,” added Burlinson.
Another central goal of STAG is to work closely with Envigo’s customers to develop new screening assays – utilising the company’s advanced science and technology to meet ongoing R&D demands.
One recent example is the development of in vitro assays that enables the testing of 100 or so compounds per month for potential endocrine disrupting effects. A key benefit of these assays is the capability to put fairly large numbers of compounds through the screens with very little material needed for use.
Beyond customer contracts, the group is also planning to independently develop new assays and technologies that Envigo can potentially sell to customers in the future.
STAG will also take on a longer-term role in the process of attracting talented scientists, particularly high calibre university graduates, including PHDs, who possess specific, specialised skill sets that mirror scientific and technological projects planned or in development at Envigo. This will be achieved through the Science and Technology Advisory Group forming close collaborations with academic institutions and arranging for five or six selected students each year to take up work placements at the company. Envigo has already entered into such an arrangement with Kings College London for students with cardiovascular and pharmacology expertise.
The STAG will have a core membership of 6-8 representatives for the first 3 years from a range of technical disciplines across the company. However, after this period the STAG committee membership will rotate on 2 year cycles to ensure a regular impetus of new ideas and thinking.