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Charles River (CRL) to Develop RNA-based Therapy With New Pact

Charles River Laboratories International, Inc. CRL recently announced viral vector contract development and manufacturing organization (“CDMO”) partnership with Rznomics. Charles River’s viral vector CDMO experience will be utilized by Rznomics to begin clinical development of its RNA-based anticancer gene therapy in liver cancer patients.

The latest partnership will fortify Charles River’s plasmid DNA manufacturing, supporting cell and gene therapy development.

More on the News

Rznomics gets Phase I/IIa IND FDA approval for RZ-001 in October 2022, enabling the initiation of an international clinical study in HCC patients. Early-phase trials have also commenced in Korea following IND approval for RZ-001 from the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS).

RZ-001 is the first ribozyme-based RNA reprogramming approach. The treatment was developed utilizing Rznomics’ proprietary RNA reprogramming and editing technology and utilizes an adenoviral vector that expresses an hTERT-targeting ribozyme to treat hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients that account for 80% of primary liver cancer cases globally.

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In line with the recent development, with the acquisitions of Vigene Biosciences, Cobra Biologics, and Cognate BioServices in 2021, Charles River has been expanding its wide-ranging cell and gene therapy portfolio to cover viral vector, plasmid DNA, and cell therapy production.

Strategic Implications

Per Charles River’s management, the collaboration with Rznomics will tap into the company’s CDMO capabilities and the expertise will help to bring RZ-001  — a potentially curative therapy to HCC patients.

Industry Prospects

Per Precedence Research, the global cell and gene therapy market size is expected to surpass $93.78 billion at a CAGR of 22.41% by 2030. Factors like increasing incidences of rare and chronic diseases, advancements in cell and gene therapy, and a rising number of clinical trials are likely to drive the market.

Recent Developments

In January 2023, Charles River announced the introduction of its eXpDNA plasmid platform, established from the company’s contract development and manufacturing (CDMO) and biologics testing experience.  The company will officially launch the eXpDNA platform between Jan 17-20, 2023, at Phacilitate Advanced Therapies Week in Miami, FL.

In November 2022, Charles River expanded its cell therapy contract development and manufacturing (CDMO) facility in Memphis, Tenn. The expanded space is suitable for clinical and commercial cell therapy manufacturing, with an additional nine state-of-the-art processing suites, adding to an existing 16 cleanrooms.

Price Performance

Shares of the company have declined 29.4% in the past six months against the industry’s fall of 24.4%.

Zacks Rank and Key Picks

Currently, Charles River carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Some better-ranked stocks in the broader medical space are AMN Healthcare Services, Inc. AMN, Boston Scientific Corporation BSX and Merit Medical Systems, Inc. MMSI.

AMN Healthcare, carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) at present, has an estimated long-term growth rate of 3.3%. AMN’s earnings surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate in all the trailing four quarters, the average beat being 10.9%. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

AMN Healthcare has lost 10.6% compared with the industry’s 30.3% decline in the past year.

Boston Scientific, carrying a Zacks Rank #2 at present, has an estimated long-term growth rate of 10.3%. BSX’s earnings surpassed estimates in three of the trailing four quarters and missed the same in one, the average beat being 1.9%.

Boston Scientific has gained 6.8% against the industry’s 42.6% decline over the past year.

Merit Medical, carrying a Zacks Rank #2 at present, has an estimated long-term growth rate of 11%. MMSI’s earnings surpassed estimates in all the trailing four quarters, the average beat being 25.4%.

Merit Medical has gained 13.7% against the industry’s 8.7% decline over the past year.

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