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Cutting Edge Conversations: The Role of In Vivo Studies in Personalized Medicine

On August 24, speakers from Certis Oncology and Hera BioLabs participated in the first episode of Scientist.com’s Cutting Edge Conversations series. This interactive event showcased the innovations from two service providers regarding the “Role of In Vivo Studies in Personalized Medicine”. Scientist.com’s Category Director for In Vivo Services, Meaghan Loy, kicked off the even by providing an overview of the topics to be discussed — the skepticism surrounding personalized medicine and the questions raised regarding this approach, followed by presentations by her two guests.


Jonathan Nakashima, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer from Certis Oncology.

Jonathan Nakashima has more than 15 years of experience developing preclinical oncology models. Under a California Institute for Regenerative Medicine fellowship, he received his doctorate in Medical and Molecular Pharmacology at UCLA, where he developed genetically engineered and patient-derived xenograft models to study cancers of the central and peripheral nervous systems. He continued on with his post-doctoral training in the department of Neurobiology, where he received a Kirschstein National Research Service Award to study the cell-interactions in the brain tumor microenvironment. After his academic training, he joined Crown Bioscience, where he served as a Study Director for in vitro and in vivo projects, including solid tumor PDX studies, PDX screens and syngeneic studies. He joined Certis in 2018 as employee number 3, and now oversees the company’s R&D initiatives, patient-directed orthotopic PDX (O-PDX) pharmacology studies and the development and implementation of translational oncology assays for drug development.

Jonathan discussed how his work at Certis Oncology is advancing translational and precision medicine through orthotopic patient-derived xenograft (O-PDX) models. He covered how the tumor microenvironment (TME) plays a key role in cancer growth, metastasis and response to therapies. He went on to show how O-PDX models provide relevant TME and can predict individualized patient response to targeted and chemo therapies and how the response to immuno and cellular therapies differ between orthotopic and subcutaneous models.


Dr. Grace Walton joined from Hera BioLabs.

Dr. Grace Walton earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition Sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where she studied NR4A nuclear receptors in the context of diabetes and insulin resistance. She moved to the University of Kentucky for a post-doctoral fellowship, where she studied molecular mechanisms of exercise physiology. She then remained at Kentucky as a staff scientist and then as Research Assistant Professor, where she continued to study exercise physiology in vitro, in mice, and in clinical trials. She has published numerous first author papers in high quality journals, and is excited to pivot to oncology work at Hera Biolabs.

Grace presented interesting insights on how SRG Rat (OncoRat®) enables precision medicine-based cancer studies. The process starts with an immunodeficient rat, a Sprague-Dawley Rag2/Il2rg double knockout (SRG) OncoRat that lacks mature B cells, T cells and circulating NK cells is available for cancer modeling. Results are presented that demonstrate the SRG rat to have high efficiency tumor take rates and growth kinetics with different cell lines and PDXs, even in those known to be difficult to propagate. Surgically resected NSCLC tissue from nine patients were implanted in the SRG OncoRat, seven of which engrafted and grew for an overall success rate of 78%. This model allowsfor the formation of larger tumors in the first passage, which provides an ample source of tissue for characterization and/or subsequent passage into NSG mice for drug efficacy studies. Molecular characterization and histological analyses were performed for three PDX lines and showed high concordance between serially passaging and the original patient sample. Next generation sequencing was performed and genomically guided efficacy studies were conducted using this SRG OncoRat model.


Learn more about the innovations and services offered by Certis Oncology and Hera BioLabs from the webinar recording.

You can also view the presentation slides here.