In Vivo Facility Links MSU to Industry
MSU's In Vivo Facility is a matchmaker. The service facility contracts with both industry and academics in need of in vivo pharmacology capabilities (i.e., within-organism research on drug properties) to conduct research and enlists MSU faculty to participate in the projects. "It's a win for everyone," said facility director Marc Bailie. "Our industry contacts get the knowledge and expertise they need, and the MSU collaborators develop relationships with the private sector and generate funding for their own research."
"These projects provide a good way for MSU researchers to develop relationships with industry scientists and to contribute directly to the translation of important scientific and medical research," added associate director Teresa Krieger-Burke, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology. These interactions provide university personnel with insight into the more directed and circumscribed types of applied research and testing often needed by the private sector.
J.R. Haywood, chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and assistant vice president for regulatory affairs, recruited Bailie, Krieger- Burke, and Sarah Marsh, a licensed veterinary technician and specialist in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, to establish the facility. "When the Pfizer Research and Development site in Ann Arbor closed, we were fortunate to be able to bring these talented employees from the Pfizer drug safety group to MSU to develop this service facility," he said. It was a homecoming of sorts for all three. They had all earned degrees at MSU, and Marsh worked at the MSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital before joining Pfizer.
"From the beginning we determined that the facility would offer timely, flexible services at competitive prices," Bailie said. "That makes it very valuable to our industry and faculty customers." The group also provides services at cost for academic researchers who are funding projects from government grants. So far about 90 percent of their work has me from industry. "We would really like to grow the fraction of work we do with MSU faculty, helping them translate their in vitro studies of novel therapeutics into validated toxicology and pharmacology studies," he said. "This is an important step in the translation of lab science to human clinical research."
Through the facility, the team applies their expertise in drug development and enlists other MSU experts to help researchers begin to translate a molecule or chemical that shows therapeutic promise into a potential new drug. They develop custom models that meet researchers' needs for specific kinds of testing to support research on a variety of diseases. They gather and interpret data and provide reports to their clients. The projects range in scope from simple pharmacokinetic evaluations and GI motility studies to complex assessments of compound effects in sophisticated models of cardiac disease.
Projects also involve MSU students, who benefit from the opportunity to interact and develop connections with industry searchers, Marsh said. Industry and academic researchers approach projects differently. Industry researchers typically have specific goals and deliverables with clearly defined endpoints and timelines, while academic researchers tend to work on open-ended projects where ideas that develop during their explorations may lead them in new directions. "Experiencing and understanding those differences can be a useful addition to a student's education," Bailie said.
A core group of MSU scientists is available to work on research projects through the facility, "but we would be happy to know about others who might be interested in working on these projects," Bailie said. The group is also available to help faculty develop proposals that include their services.
"The In Vivo Facility gives us a new way to support research at MSU and advance our research reputation," Haywood said. "It's helping us develop important connections with industry colleagues across the nation."