Charles River Laboratories International, the US-based contract research organisation (CRO) that specialises in early-phase testing, has paid around US$12.5 million in cash for MIR (Molecular Imaging Research) Preclinical Services, a US company supplying pharmaceutical and biotechnology clients with discovery services backed up by in vivo imaging capabilities.

It has been a busy couple of months for Charles River on the acquisition front. In early August the CRO snapped up NewLab BioQuality, a privately held contract service organisation based in Düsseldorf, Germany, for around US$53 million in cash. Seen as a complement to the Charles River Biopharmaceutical Services business, this transaction is expected to close by the end of the third quarter.

Operating out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, MIR will be incorporated into Charles River Discovery Services, which provides non-GLP (Good Laboratory Practice) pharmacology services for evaluating compound efficacy. With the addition of MIR, Charles River noted, the CRO can now offer expertise in four key therapeutic areas, including metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, oncology and inflammation, complemented by expanded in vivo imaging capabilities.

The acquired company’s focus is on non-GLP preclinical efficacy testing services with expertise in oncology and inflammation. What makes the company stand out from traditional discovery service providers is its use of “multiple modalities of state-of-the-art, in vivo imaging techniques”, Charles River explained.

MIR applies a wide array of high-throughput and efficient imaging technologies, including preclinical positron emission tomography (PET), preclinical micro-computed tomography (CT), anatomical and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and bioluminescence and fluorescence biophotonic imaging.

“These extensive imaging services permit non-invasive, in situ and quantitative analysis of both efficacy and mechanism of action,” Charles River said. “The net result is acceleration of the drug discovery process and more precise evaluation of clients’ drug candidates than is possible with traditional methods.” MRI also offers a range of other in vivo, in vitro and analytical services to supplement its core imaging offering.

As pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies step up their efforts to streamline drug development, in vivo imaging “is becoming a key tool” for making more effective and informed ‘go/no-go’ decisions” early in the process, commented James Foster, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Charles River.