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Charles River

A commitment to the humane care and well-being of all animals and the people who work with them at Charles River.

Charles River started in 1947 as a breeder and supplier of high-quality rats and mice--healthy, uniform, and reared by the highest standards. When he founded the company, veterinarian Henry Foster established two guiding principles for his business—humane care of animals and scientific innovation. Today, in addition to being the largest global provider of research models for medical testing, Charles River delivers expansive, comprehensive research models and services, drug discovery and safety assessment services, biologics and microbial testing, and full-service process development, clinical to commercial manufacturing. This includes providing contract research services to the human pharmaceutical, agrochemical, and animal health sectors to provide safety information in animals that enable medicines and other products to be used safely. This culture of care and support for innovation have never been stronger, whether it is continuously increasing the level of care or developing and testing non-animal alternative methods that will accelerate the pace of drug research, curtail drug failures, and reduces our reliance on animals.

digital pathology
Digital Pathology

Partnerships with biopharmaceutical, academic and government stakeholders and investments in innovative technologies are all helping Charles River to open its door to organ chips, organoids, AI-powered drug discovery and other tools like digital pathology, shown on left. These newer technologies are designed to both improve drug development and help meet our 3Rs commitment of replacing, reducing, and refining the use of research animals, and that we do so responsibly. Charles River has invested over US$200M in the last four years alone in pursuit of this goal. To maintain our leadership and to ensure we are purposeful about pursing these advances Charles River launched in April the Alternative Methods Advancement Project (AMAP) to ensure we continue to innovate and drive toward a future where our work helps bring treatments to patients safely and swiftly, while reducing and, over time as science and patient safety allow, further reduce the use of animals in research. AMAP’s multifaceted approach, including innovations, investments, partnerships, and advocacy activity, will fuel the development of new products and services, technologies, processes, and digital innovations in alternatives. Still, while we are committed to finding alternative pathways that will reduce our reliance on research animals, we recognize that these alternatives need to be supported by solid data and regulatory acceptance.

Dr. Foster, Founder of Charles River Laboratories Foundation
Dr. Foster, Founder of Charles River Laboratories Foundation

At the same time, Charles River remains a strong and longtime supporter of public outreach efforts that promote humane care of animals and scientific innovation and strives to educate the public about the importance and necessity for the use of animals in research. In 1976, Dr. Foster established a non-profit foundation—the Charles River Laboratories Foundation, Inc—to educate the public about biomedical research and further the humane care of laboratory animals through funding animal welfare research. The mission of the Foundation has been carried on by the Charles River Commitment to Humane Animal Research Through Excellence and Responsibility (CHARTER) Program.

In 2002, Charles River was the first company to formalize its commitment to humane care and use of research animals with the creation of the Global Animal Welfare and Training corporate group lead by an internationally recognized board-certified veterinarian specializing in laboratory animal welfare. Their mission is to ensure good welfare and humane care for all animals and the people that work with them at Charles River, raising awareness and providing training on the importance of animal welfare for internal and external audiences. In 2017, Charles River helped to form the not-for-profit 3Rs Collaborative to advance science, innovation, and research animal welfare. Key initiatives of the 3Rs Collaborative range from replacing live animal use for rodent health monitoring, refined handling methods and compassion fatigue to microphysiological systems (organ chips, organoids) and translational digital biomarkers.

Charles River recognizes both Biomedical Research Awareness Day and Be Open About Animal Research Day in Europe, by hosting workshops, seminars, community outreach activities and other events that help increase awareness both externally and internally about the work Charles River does in animal research. Charles River is also a signatory to the national Transparency Agreements active in eight European countries. By committing to promote a more open and transparent climate around the much-debated topic of animal research, we are hopefully moving the needle on public understanding about why animals are needed in research. We also use our scientific blog Eureka to educate the public about the impact our animal research has on patients, whether it is cancer, renal dialysis, rare diseases like Niemann-Pick disease, or a myriad of other conditions.

Through our STEM outreach, including partnerships with Discovery Education’s STEM Careers Coalition in the US, and STEM Learning in the UK, scientists on five continents are available to grammar schools, high schools and colleges and universities who express interest in learning more about animal welfare and biomedical research. Reaching students at all levels of education has been very positive; it elicits discussion and leads to better understanding of the work and commitment of people working with animals. The public can also access information on how we use animals in research by visiting our company website, including Charles River’s Animal Welfare and Humane Treatment of Animal’s Policy that sets forth our standards of practice.

Charles River collaborates with key stakeholders to foster a culture of openness and transparency, responsibly balancing the information we share with potential concerns over security, proprietary information, and other issues. Through these openness and transparency efforts we are continually striving to progress change within the industry regarding animal use through cooperative efforts internally and with clients and regulatory agencies. These efforts are important in maintaining the public’s trust and support for necessary biomedical research, bringing vital drugs to market safely, and as quickly as possible.

animal care techniican gently holding a rat

We believe that the work we do today can create a better tomorrow where every day, every hour, every minute makes a difference in the lives of patients and their families.


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