The Trials and Tribulations of Animal Models | September 3, 2019

The translational difficulties faced by fibrotic drug developers is a prevailing issue – animal models are not representative and often lack the complexities that a heterogenic disease like fibrosis presents. But in vitro models pose their own problems, with limited longevity and difficulty sourcing the right samples.

Our panelists debated the pros and cons of animal models and draw from their varied experience working with a range of models, from mice to primates, and precision cut liver slices. It’s up to you decide whether animal models are a thing of the past or a necessary component of the drug development process.

The panel session covered:

  • Whether animal models are necessary or can be bypassed
  • The relevancy of precision-cut organ slices against the longevity of animal models
  • The practice of testing multiple animal models for a smoother transition to clinical trial


Lee Borthwick

Dr Lee Borthwick
Fibrosis Biology Lecturer and Chief Operating Officer FibroFind
Newcastle University

I completed my PhD at the University of Sheffield and joined Newcastle University in 2005 working as a Research Associate in the Newcastle Fibrosis Research Group (NFRG) under the supervision of Prof. Derek Mann and Prof. Andrew Fisher. In 2011 I was awarded a Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship and spent 2 years working in the laboratory of Dr Thomas Wynn at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda. Upon returning to Newcastle I was appointed to a University Research Fellowship role and provided dedicated laboratory space and support to conduct my research. I was promoted to a Lecturer in 2017 and Senior Lecturer in in Fibrosis Biology in 2019.  My research primarily focuses on understanding the role of fibroblast plasticity in driving/resolving inflammation and fibrosis. To achieve this goal my laboratory combines in vivo mouse models with the use of precision cut slices (PCS) prepared from human tissue and ex-vivo cultures of human cells. The use of human tissue and cells is helping us to develop new robust laboratory models to study fibrosis that are more relevant to human disease. My current collaborators include Pfizer, Genentech and GlaxoSmithKline.  I also serve as Chief Operations Officer and sit on the Board of Directors for FibroFind, a spin-out CRO from the NFRG that provides commercial studies using in vivo fibrosis models as well as our bespoke PCS platform to pharma and other academic institutions.

Masha Poyurovsky

Masha Poyurovsky Ph.D.
Vice President Discovery Biology
Kadmon Corportation LLC

Dr. Poyurovsky leads the Discovery Biology group at Kadmon, bridging early discovery studies and nonclinical development of small molecules and biologics, with emphasis on fibrosis and inflammation. She is the leading scientist on the ROCK inhibitor program and multiple other early stage discovery programs. Along with drug discovery efforts, Dr. Poyurovsky works closely with Kadmon’s Business Development team as a scientific liaison. She has authored numerous patents, papers and reviews, along with several book chapters on cellular metabolism and cancer.

Prior to joining Kadmon 8 years ago, Dr. Poyurovsky spent more than ten years studying cellular and molecular mechanisms of cancer in an academic setting. Dr. Poyurovsky received her B.S. in biology from the University of Pittsburgh and her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Columbia University. Dr. Poyurovsky continued her postgraduate work at Columbia, first as a postdoctoral fellow and then independently, as a staff scientist.

Glenn Rosen

Glenn Rosen M.D.
Senior Vice President Preclinical Translational Sciences Small Molecules
Coherus BioSciences

Dr. Glenn Rosen has spent the bulk of his career engaged in basic and translational research in cancer and fibrosis. From 1993-2014, Dr. Rosen held a tenured faculty position in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, Stanford University. He led a basic and translational research laboratory-his research focused on the study of dysregulated signaling in fibrosis and solid tumors. He also led the clinical Interstitial Lung Disease Program at Stanford. Dr. Rosen joined Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) in September 2014 as a Medical Director in the Early Clinical and Translational Research Group, where he led the Phase 2 program of a lysophosphatidic acid receptor antagonist for the treatment of pulmonary fibrosis. This was followed by appointment as Therapeutic Area Head of Fibrosis and Genetically Defined Diseases. As therapeutic area head, he was charged with leading translational and early clinical development strategy and execution. In 2016 he was selected as Head, Discovery Fibrosis Biology at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he led the early discovery and development, and translation of pre-clinical compounds, with a disease concentration in liver and lung fibrosis. Dr. Rosen joined Coherus Biosciences, Redwood City, CA, in 2019, where he leads the pre-clinical and translational sciences small molecule program.

John Atkinson

John Atkinson 
Senior Research Scientist Tissue Remodelling

John Atkinson is a Senior Research Scientist in the Tissue Remodelling department of UCB Pharma. He has 10 years fibrosis experience working in academia at the University of Sheffield (where he received his PhD) and in industry at UCB. His main role is as an in vivo lead pharmacologist for fibrosis programmes, a project leader for early stage fibrosis projects, and a lead contact point for multiple fibrosis collaborations. His interests include imaging, animal models, novel therapeutics and modalities, and novel targets for fibrosis.