People are fascinating to me, especially the ones who see an imperfection in the traditional way things are done and then go about fixing it. Some people make small changes that tweak a system while others change how the world runs. I think The One Health Company is going to be one of the game-changers. The company is connecting sick dogs with the latest human clinical trials.
Who is The One Health Company?
The idea for One Health began while Benjamin Lewis was attending veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania. He spent half of his time working at a clinic where sick dogs were being treated and he spent the other half of his time in a laboratory setting. At the lab he saw healthy animals being injected with diseases that caused them have the same illnesses as the pets at the clinic. They were being made sick in order to test the latest human clinical trials. The system didn’t make sense to him. He thought there should be a better way to connect sick dogs with the leading studies.
Let me back up to explain the traditional animal research model
Traditionally, healthy animals are injected with a disease in a laboratory setting. It gives them an artificially induced form of an illness. If necessary, their immune systems are also destroyed for the clinical trial. Then the animals receive a new pharmaceutical drug or treatment to see how well it alleviates the symptoms of their induced illness.
With an estimated 100 million sick animals a year brought to veterinary offices for treatment, Lewis didn’t understand the need to make healthy animals sick. And he didn’t like that sick pets were unable to receive potentially lifesaving medications.
Did you know there are only 3 approved cancer fighting drugs for dogs and there are zero approved medications for cats with cancer? Lewis knew there had to be a way of connecting sick pets with the latest clinical trials.
Running the idea by the establishment
Lewis pitched his new treatment model to the hierarchy at the veterinary school, but he was laughed out of the room. The experience made him question why he was in vet school. So, with only six months to go for his veterinary degree, Benjamin Lewis switched to the Wharton School of Business.
Then while on a spring break in Brazil, Lewis found a way to gain credibility and raise funds for his treatment model. He stayed in Brazil for 4 years where he started an animal health supply company called 4Vets. He also married business woman Christina Lopes.
The couple moved back to the U.S to start The One Health Company in 2016. Today they work with 110 specialty veterinary hospitals to place sick dogs in pharmaceutical clinical trials. The system runs just like human clinical trials.
How One Health is connecting sick dogs with the latest pharmaceutical trials
At this time, One Health is focusing its efforts on getting dogs with cancer into clinical trials. That is due to the major work drug companies are doing in the field. Dogs are referred by veterinary hospitals or pet owners can enroll their dog directly on the One Health website.
Canines accepted into a study receive access to expensive treatments at no cost to their families. One Health says some of the treatments have added up to more than $100,000 per patient.
The pharmaceutical companies are happy with the new system. They are seeing the results their medications have on dogs who have natural forms of cancer, rather than artificially induced disease. These results seem to be as close as possible to a human’s experience.
The model is working
Prior to using the One Health model, only 8 percent of cancer drugs tested on animals with artificial disease worked on people. The data of the drugs tested on naturally sick dogs is proving to be much more accurate.
One example of the model working was in a clinical trial of a lymphoma drug called Imbruvica. The medication was used for another form of cancer and the FDA wanted proof of it helping patients with lymphoma. With help from dogs with the disease, the process for approval was accurate and faster than normal.
“This saves millions of dollars, years of work, and hundreds of patients from being unnecessarily treated,” said Jenna Burton, a medical oncologist and the Associate Director of the Veterinary Center for Clinical Trials at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.”
Staying true to their goals
Lewis said in an interview that his company is cautious about what new drugs are tested on animals.
“We don’t want to put anything in someone’s pet dog that is going to hurt them,” Lewis says. “We’re not just testing random molecules. We answer very specific questions for pharmaceutical companies.”
Here is a current clinical trial that is recruiting canine patients:
One Health is seeking dogs who have been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer called Hemangiosarcoma. The study is in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Here’s a video about the goals of One Health