$27m investment sees Crown team with China’s biggest mutant mouse org

$27m investment sees Crown team with China’s biggest mutant mouse org

Crown Biosciences has partnered with China’s biggest producer of mutant mice to build better experimental models for its cancer research sponsors, as part of its $26.5m (£16m) venture funding.

The National Resource Centre for Mutant Mice (NRCMM), based in Nanjing University, China, breeds genetically engineered mutant mice (GEMMs), often to be immune-deficient so they can be engrafted with human cells.

Crown told Outsourcing-Pharma.com it chose NRCMM for the partnership because its GEMMs are “better than others in China” because they are “more deficient in their immunity” than rivals’. This make it easier for Crown to engraft human cancer tissue without it being rejected, said Henry Li, VP of Translation Oncology at Crown.

Crown, a contract research organisation (CRO) which deals only with cancer and diabetes R&D, announced last week it has received $26.5m in funding from Lilly Asia Ventures, a venture capital group affiliated with Eli Lilly. The investment is being used to fund rapid expansion of the CRO’s translational oncology platforms, including the development of Crown’s mice models, Li told us.

The head of Translational Oncology told us it would also take advantage of NRCMM’s other mice models. “They have a GEMM model with mouse immunity. In recent years, immune therapy has become a huge promise in cancer therapy.” Crown plans to access NCRMM’s existing mouse models and to further develop them to derive a version that can be used by clients exploring immunotherapies, said Li.

Mouse models: ‘Asian bias’

He added Crown’s patient-derived xenograft (PDX) collection had last month passed a milestone of 1,000 different models, putting it on the path to be the largest resource for patient-derived models worldwide.  

But we don’t want to stop there – we want to increase our model library,” said Li. “Our library has an Asian bias. Our next major effort will be to look at other demographics, particularly in Caucasian population. Some of those funds will help us establish or acquire models from Europe or the States. It’s particularly important to validate the models and evaluate them to make them useful to pharmaceutical researchers.

NRMCC also has a large collection of mice for diabetes studies, said Li, and there is “potential” for the companies to collaborate in this therapeutic area as well, adding to Crown’s cohort of diabetes monkeys.

The Chinese organisation is a non-profit heavily funded by the Chinese government. It also has a commercial wing.

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