Stories of Medical Innovation

Five Things to Know About Working with Preclinical Translational Services

If conducting an animal study is critical to the success of your research, but the level of detail, planning, technical expertise and time that goes into these studies seems daunting, the Center for Industry Research Collaboration has the perfect solution: our Preclinical Translational Services team.

Located at the Clarkson Campus, Preclinical Translational Services provides high-caliber technical and surgical services, specializing in large animal clinical and surgical models. The group is led by Susan Appt, DVM, section head of Comparative Medicine and associate director of Preclinical Translational Services, and consists of a team of veterinary surgeons and laboratory technicians with broad experience in areas such as research, surgery, anesthesia and imaging.

The mission of Preclinical Translational Services is to provide research expertise to support industry-sponsored and grant-funded academic research at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

“We provide expertise and technical capabilities to help faculty run comparative research studies,” says Appt. “From study planning and design to surgical and technical assistance, we can deliver the flexible support your study needs.”

For faculty researchers who want to learn more about the group, here are five advantages to working with Preclinical Translational Services.

1. Get help with the planning and paperwork

Like any complex endeavor, the success of an animal study invariably hinges on planning and administrative details. Factors like timing, paperwork and cost are important details that have to be accounted for when undertaking an animal study.

“A lot of detail and planning goes into a study,” says Heather DeLoid, DVM, who is the surgical research veterinarian for the group. “Understanding the impact of timing and cost could mean the difference between a successful study, and one that never gets off the ground.”

Depending on the type of the study, even the process of identifying, acquiring and acclimating animals can take weeks or months. Completing the required documentation and preparing accurate budgets can also be a challenge.

“We are here to take that burden off of faculty so they don’t have to spend time doing it themselves,” says DeLoid.

2. Find an animal model that fits the specific needs of your study

Many faculty studies start in the researchers’ labs, using rodents or other small-scale models. Moving the study to large animals, especially nonhuman primates, presents a different set of challenges.

Even faculty well-versed in nonhuman primate research rely on Preclinical Translational Services for their expertise in this area. For example, Matthew Jorgensen, PhD, regularly partners with Preclinical Translational Services to supplement the technical capabilities of his own research team.

“There are key differences between rodents and other models that the Preclinical Translational Services group understands,” says Jorgensen, associate professor in the Department of Pathology – Section on Comparative Medicine.

Developing animal models based on the specific needs of a study is one of the core capabilities of the group. They can develop specific models for a wide range of diseases, including diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular issues, as well as surgical models.

Many researchers are interested in accessing the National Institutes of Health-supported colony of vervet/African green monkeys housed at the Clarkson campus. Because it’s a breeding colony, the nonhuman primates’ lineage can be traced back for years, which allows researchers to take variables like genetics and family history into account.

The appropriate animal model required for a study depends on the disease being investigated or procedures being tested. Preclinical Translational Services can provide guidance in choosing the correct model for your study, pulling from their experience conducting studies with other large animal species, including pigs, sheep, and goats, as well as supporting studies on smaller animal models, such as rabbits and ferrets.

3. Obtain access to specialized veterinary surgical and technical assistance

Animal studies often require certain technical capabilities that faculty research teams may not possess. Preclinical Translational Services can help with that expertise, whether they are conducting the entire study or providing support for individual procedures or surgeries.

In a recent study with the Preclinical Translational Services team, Jorgensen needed help with anesthesia and bronchoalveolar lavage procedures, and the group provided the necessary technical and veterinary expertise to complete the study.

Having access to that level of expertise was crucial to completing Jorgensen’s study. It also helped him continue his work with additional studies.

“If we know we don’t have a certain technical expertise, we can immediately go to Preclinical Translational Services,” he says. “With their support, we are able to conduct studies we couldn’t do otherwise.”

4. Be confident in your data

Preclinical Translational Services makes obtaining accurate and repeatable outcomes a primary objective when supporting studies. The team focuses on generating high-quality data by ensuring all details of a study are taken into account.

The team’s attention to detail is especially important for industry-funded projects that need data to support the advance of a product into the next phase of development.

“Working with the Preclinical Translational Services group helps us ensure that samples are collected according to the study protocol and that the results are reported properly,” says Jorgensen.

“We put a lot of emphasis on preparing for procedures and creating detailed study forms,” says DeLoid. “Our preparation and process ensures that activities are completed as intended and that there are no uncertainties about the data.”

5. Get started as early as possible

The key to working with Preclinical Translational Services is to contact them early.

Involving Preclinical Translational Services early in the planning process can help researchers ensure their study is designed to maximize outcomes, budgeted accurately and executed in an effective and efficient manner.

If you are interested in working with Preclinical Translational Services on a grant or industry-sponsored study, contact the Center for Industry Research Collaboration by emailing or by calling +1.336.713.1111.