We are in a new era of CNS drug discovery

It's time to try a different approach.

CNS drug discovery isn't for the faint of heart. We can't be deterred by clinical failures, but it's clear that some approaches aren't working. It's time to start over, building upon the foundations of our current research. It's time to explore new tools and techniques, gathering the data that drives confident decisions in the earliest stages of development. It's time to break through with discovery of new, long-awaited therapies. Collaboration is key, as we pool knowledge and share experience that will allow us all to reach our goals.

What can we accomplish together?

Meet the Scientists Working on Your Projects

Jussi Rytkonen, PhD

Principal Scientist, In Vivo Pharmacology

For more than 10 years, Dr. Rytkonen has supported Charles River clients’ neuroscience R&D programs with expertise in neuroimaging, radiometric assays, and CNS disease models. Having spent his early career as a research associate and scientist, he has developed a rich perspective for the small details affecting studies, experience he is eager to share with clients and the team of neuroscientists he currently manages. In his current role, Dr. Rytkonen divides his time between building new partnerships and expanding Charles River’s neuroscience assay capabilities to further the development of novel treatments for CNS disease.

Julien Roeser, PhD

Associate Director, Analytical Sciences

Dr. Roeser earned in his PhD in electrochemistry in a proteomics lab and learned the ins and outs of mass spectrometry with a pioneer of Electrospray mass spectrometry. Ever since, he specialized in small molecule bioanalysis on liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) platforms. His extensive hands-on experience as an analytical scientist in theCNS and oncology space led him to deep dive in niche analysis of pharmacokinetic (PK) and relevant pharmacodynamic (PD) biomarkers in those therapeutic areas, supporting microdialysis operations conducted at the South San Francisco site. In his current role, he splits his time managing the CNS and oncology-focused bioanalytical department and high-throughput DMPK operations as well as contributing to the expansion of the site and related bioanalytical services. Dr. Roeser recently established large molecule bioanalysis capabilities, laying the foundation of an immunoassay group that now delivers service to the Bay Area biotech hub. Together with his team, he continues to develop solutions for the treatment of CNS disorders and new oncology therapies.

Neuroscience Goes Virtual

Stay connected with the neuroscience community inthe age of social distance with our always expanding collection of educationalresources, on-demand content, and links to the next virtual events.  

Explore What's Happening



Medicinal Chemistry

Modern medicinal chemistry is highly multidisciplinary, driving CNS drug discovery innovation from novel synthesis and delivery to screening. Small molecule and large molecule CNS targets range from GPCRs to kinase inhibitors and have proven useful for studying diseases of neurodegeneration such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

Learn More

Antisense Oligonucleotide (ASO) Screening

ASO screens can be designed to evaluate a variety of proven mechanism of action approaches for antisense oligonucleotide therapy. To date, we’ve developed ASO screening assays primarily for rare neurodegenerative disorders.

Learn More

High-Throughput Screening

Utilizing vast compound libraries, chemists use high-throughput screening to rapidly identify promising compounds for neuroscience target validation and identification.

Learn More

High Content Imaging

In CNS research, we use high content imaging to characterize stem cell-derived neuronal lineages and a host of validated assays like apoptosis, autophagy, protein aggregation, cell or mitochondrial motility and migration, epigenetic modifications, maker expression, protein acetylation and phosphorylation, receptor internalization and degradation, sub-cellular localization and translocation of transcription factors.

Learn More


Neurological disease research and drug discovery uses proteomics to search for disease or pharmacological signatures. This allows us to understand biological mechanisms and identify specific proteins and their modifications, e.g., ubiquitination or phosphorylation in Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease models.

Learn More

CRISPR Gene Editing

CRISPR Cas9 gene editing has transformed drug discovery and development. It has been used successfully for editing the Huntington CAG repeat in human iPSCs and for high-content screening of disease-relevant in vitro assays for ALS.

Learn More

Human iPSCs

Generating induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) for neurological disease-relevant assays, coupled with specific differentiation protocols for production of neurons and/or astrocytes, improves translation to in vivo models.

Learn More

Ion Channel Profiling

Our ion channel assays guide your early screening investigations and selectivity profiling with 120 targets organized in functionally-validated disease areas. CNS-focused Channel Panels™ include pain, psychiatric disorders, neurodegeneration, and seizure disorders.

Learn More

Research Models and Services

CRISPR Mice and Rats

Using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing to create unique rat and mouse models of neurological disease offers the advantages of time savings, reduction in animal use, and improved overall cost-effectiveness.

Learn More

RNAi Mouse Models

Where small molecule drug therapy has failed, RNA interference has emerged to silence specific genes such as those identified for genetic neurodegenerative disorders like spinocerebellar ataxia and Huntington’s disease.

Learn More

Neurological Surgical Procedures

Our skilled veterinary surgeons and technicians perform a comprehensive selection of procedures for rats, mice, guinea pigs, and large animals, including bilateral brain cannulation, microdialysis probe implantation, spinal nerve ligation, 6-OHDA Parkinson’s disease lesion models, and more.

Learn More

Research Models

You can reduce attrition rates with animal models that closely mimic neurological diseases. We can support your neuroscience research with a range of standard and custom in vivo pharmacology models for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, psychiatric disorders, pain, brain injuries, and more.

Learn More

Microbiome & Next Generation Sequencing

In recent years, the connection between the gut microbiome on host physiology and the onset of neurological disease has become recognized as an important area of interest. Next generation sequencing can assess the biodiversity of your animal colony and research experiments.

Learn More


The Charles River Accelerator and Development Lab (CRADL™) offers turnkey vivarium rental space for both emerging and well-established biotech companies. Two locations, CRADL™ East in Cambridge, MA and CRADL™ West in South San Francisco, CA, serve researchers on both coasts of the United States.

Learn More

Translational Tools


Assessing the functional activity of your neuronal cell cultures, brain slices, or tissue can be cumbersome. Whatever your therapeutic area – neuromuscular, schizophrenia, neuropathic pain, or epilepsy – we have the equipment and expertise to conduct automated patch-clamp electrophysiology and multi-electrode array studies.

Learn More

Neurological Imaging

Neurological small animal imaging methodologies have the potential to dramatically increase the efficiency of lead candidate selection by providing earlier and more highly predictive data. See what state-of-the-art noninvasive preclinical imaging like pharmacological MRI, nuclear, and functional ultrasound imaging can add to your program.

Learn More

Behavioral Testing

Measuring behavioral changes is widely used for neurological diseases associated with cognition, psychiatric disorders, and neurodegeneration. This method is especially powerful when performed together with in vivo assays that assess neurochemical changes in the same animal.

Learn More


Microdialysisis a noninvasive method for collecting CSF and other fluid samples from the brain or tissues of awake animals. Samples are typically analyzed using LC-MS to assess neurochemical metabolites, therapeutic efficacy windows, or fluid biomarkers.  

Learn More

Fine Motor Kinematic Analysis

Impairment of motor skills is used as an early diagnosis marker in neuromuscular and neurodegenerative diseases. To test therapeutic compounds in animal models, characterizing fine motor impairment can reveal early changes in disease models and provide an opportunity to pharmacologically manipulate.

Learn More

Touchscreen Testing

Cognitive changes are challenging to measure in animal models. Touchscreen testing measures mouse behavior by recording a mouse’s actions and screen touch responses to images and locations on a computer screen.

Learn More


We can study neurotransmitters and metabolites from many different types of biological matrices using a variety of bioanalytical tools such as LC-MS, electrochemical detection, or fluorescence detection.

Learn More


Abuse and Dependence Liability Testing

Any new chemical entity that penetrates or targets sites in the central nervous system requires an assessment for abuse and liability. Our specialized neurobehavioral testing strategies can help you assess CNS-mediated effects in compliance with both international health and drug control guidelines.

Learn More


Services in neuropathology range from whole-body perfusions to specialized staining capabilities. Our skilled team of pathologists regularly assists with study design, development strategies, and regulatory submissions for a wide variety of compounds affecting the nervous system.

Learn More

Neurotoxicity Testing

Testing your therapy for adverse effects on the chemistry, structure, or function of the nervous system is critical. Our neurotoxicology program is dedicated to a broad range of products from biologics to small and large molecules in both rodent and nonrodent species.

Learn More


Our comprehensive suite of in vitro assays and in-life capabilities enable the design of compounds that penetrate the tight junctions of the blood-brain barrier whilst avoiding efflux by transporters such as p-gp. This is imperative to achieve sufficient free-drug exposure in the brain to exhibit a pharmacological effect.

Learn More

Safety Pharmacology Studies

We incorporate both in vitro and in vivo models and assays into our toxicology and safety pharmacology studies. These range from in vitro electrophysiology assays that assess potential risks for specific neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases such as Huntington’s disease or neuropathic pain, to the design of FOB/Irwin screening in animal models.  

Learn More


From CNS early discovery through clinical sample analysis, we continually develop and validate comprehensive bioanalysis (via mass spectrometry, immunohistochemistry, cell-based assays, flow cytometry, molecular biology, PK/PD, and biomarker) assays to meet the ever-changing demand of innovative drugs through the pipeline.

Learn More


Predictive biomarkers are critical tools in CNS drug discovery and development, as they assess activity of candidate therapeutics and validate targets to provide mechanism of action, therapeutic efficacy, and toxicity.

Learn More


From early discovery to animal model development to safety assessment, quantification of neuronal subpopulations and other central nervous system components can be a vital endpoint. Because the brain is such a unique and heterogeneous tissue, unbiased stereology is the only way to accurately quantify its structures.

Learn More

Scientific Resources

CNS Drug Discovery Highlights

Charles River is proud to advance the field of neuroscience with sites and staff dedicated to your CNS research. When you’re ready to transition from the discovery phase into development, our global network of facilities and comprehensive portfolio deliver the service and support to take your therapy to the clinic and beyond.

Chemistry to In Vitro Biology Services

Take a virtual tour through our facilities and listen to esteemed early discovery scientists as they discuss how Charles River’s neuroscience portfolio of medicinal chemistry through in vitro biology services is fueling drug discovery.

Take the Tour

Neurological Biomarker Services

Discover behavioral testing, histology, immunohistochemistry, and more as Tuulia Huhtala, Director of Biomarkers at our Kuopio site, highlights some of the neuroscience research being done in Europe.

Download Facility At-A-Glance Sheet

Microdialysis Technique

Explore the microdialysis technique with Holden Janssens, Director In Vivo Pharmacology at the South San Francisco Charles River site, as she explains its uses and relevance in CNS research.

Download Facility At-A-Glance Sheet

Your Team

Meet your collaborators: Charles River's Neuroscience Scientific and Commercial Leadership Team.

Jackie MacRitchie

Jackie MacRitchie, PhD

Senior Managing Director Discovery
Saffron Waldon, UK

“An understanding of the neurological disease, at the molecular level and through to how it impacts the patient, is key to developing stem cell derived neurons, performing high throughput screening assays and designing novel molecules.”

Full Profile
Antti Nurmi

Antti Nurmi, PhD, MSc

Managing Director, Discovery Services
Kuopio, Finland

"Tackling neurodegenerative disorders requires a more in-depth understanding of the mechanisms behind the diseases. Drug developers are partnering with leading service providers to explore new routes. We are implementing clinically relevant structural and functional imaging in animal models to support translational drug research for CNS disorders."

Full Profile
Jackie MacRitchie

Omar Aziz, PhD

SeniorDirector, Discovery Services
South San Francisco, CA

“High attrition rates make CNS drug discovery challenging, but with the right models and tools, it doesn’t have to be. Collecting rich data early on allows us to move the best molecules forward through development.  For example, we now have the capability to bioanalyze engineered antibodies, cellular and gene therapies, to profile compounds and optimize delivery to the brain.”

Full Profile
Gunnar Flik

Holden Janssens, PhD

Director, In Vivo Pharmacology
South San Francisco, CA

Full Profile
David Fischer

David Fischer, PhD

Executive Director,
Scientific Advisory Services
Saffron Waldon, UK

Full Profile
Toni Ahtoniemi

Toni Ahtoniemi, PhD

Associate Director, Client Services
Kuopio, Finland

Full Profile
Natalie Leonard

Gunnar Flik, PhD

Site Director, Operations
Groningen, The Netherlands

Full Profile

Contact Us

For more information about the processing of your personal information and your rights, please review our Privacy Notice.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.