The convergence of One Medicine and advanced therapeutics

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Which is more sensitive, sacrificing hundreds of laboratory mice during the development of a therapeutic or using highly advanced model systems such as organs-on-a-chip for early drug development work and carrying out animal validation in, say, six cows which in fact model many human diseases better than mice do?

This was one of the questions posed by the panel at the One Nucleus event “Cells, Genes and Vaccines: Developing the Treatments of Tomorrow” hosted at the Royal Veterinary College on 15 November. The roundtable included an interesting discussion on the manufacturing challenges of cell and gene therapies which my colleague Ellen Lambrix has covered in her separate post.

As one of the ways by which the development of advanced therapeutics could be accelerated, the panellists considered closer collaboration between human and veterinary medicine, an approach known as One Medicine. My colleague Adam Coughlin has previously written a great introduction to One Medicine in this article.

Veterinary research has shown that certain diseases in specific species are incredibly similar to the equivalent human diseases in their molecular development and progression. Examples include muscular dystrophy in beagles and melanoma in horses. Alongside evidence from whole genome sequencing that large farm animals such as pigs and cows are noticeably closer to the human genetic makeup, this should be an incentive for the pharma industry to try to establish the most appropriate, even if unconventional, animal model for the disease it is trying to treat. To a large extent, the expertise in developing and working with these animal models already exists within the veterinary medicine community.

The speakers recognized that we are not there yet in the widespread adoption of One Medicine principles. Although advanced veterinary therapies currently under development could also have equivalent benefits in human patients, pharma companies developing human medicines would need to get involved in the development process from an early stage, as there is not enough funding or resources available for the veterinary sector to progress therapeutics down both animal and human streams.

In addition to potential regulatory challenges, the panelists pointed out the obvious cost implications of carrying out drug development work in large animal models: it takes much more space and resources to house 100 cows than it does to house 100 mice. However, these increased costs should be balanced against the potential cost savings of a more efficient drug development process.

How much investment can we expect to see in the short to medium term in One Medicine approaches, to bring either advanced or conventional human therapies to the market? And which current, or new, industry players will take the lead in this area?

We will be keeping an eye out over the coming years.

In this rapidly changing landscape, how are the treatments being developed, and what might be the barriers to success?…