Mission

Alternative Animal Testing with Drosophila

Today, we are faced with significant challenges, including an aging population, the rise of lifestyle-related diseases, and escalating healthcare costs. The development of new drugs, traditionally a costly, time-consuming endeavor, has struggled to keep pace due to these pressures. Conventional animal testing, particularly with mice, often hinders efficient drug discovery processes. Additionally, growing ethical concerns regarding mammal testing have impacted the food and cosmetic industries' ability to innovate and develop new products.

In response to these challenges, we offer a Drosophila-based platform for alternative animal testing. Drosophila, commonly known as the fruit fly, are cost-effective, easy to breed, and raise no significant ethical issues. Importantly, they share similar genes and drug response mechanisms with mammals, making them an effective model for testing. Our services include alternative testing of food, drugs, and cosmetics, drug discovery support, and licensing of in-house developed lead compounds aimed at treating various diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, rheumatism, and diabetes.

FlyWorks was established leveraging research from Hokkaido University (Sonoshita Lab and Komatsuzaki Lab), the University of Tokyo (Goda Lab), and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (Cagan Lab). We have initiated this venture with the backing of several significant Japanese research programs, including the Japan Science and Technology Agency's (JST) START and CREST programs, the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development's (AMED) drug discovery program, and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science's (JSPS) core-to-core program.

News
April 2024: A preprint of our paper entitled "Flow Zoometry of Drosophila" is published on bioRxiv
March 2024: FlyWorks America, Inc. is launched in Massachusetts, USA
March 2024: FlyWorks obtains a grant from Hokuyo Bank's Startup R&D Grant Program
September 2023: FlyWorks, K.K. is launched in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
March 2022: FlyWorks receives the Grand Prize from Photonics Challenge 2022
February 2022: FlyWorks receives the Award of Excellence from NEDO Technology Commercialization Program 2021
February 2022: FlyWorks receives the VC Award from NEDO Technology Commercialization Program 2021
October 2021: FlyWorks receives the Award of Excellence from NoMaps Dream Pitch 2021
October 2021: FlyWorks receives the NEDO Award from NoMaps Dream Pitch 2021
October 2021: FlyWorks receives a grant from JST START Program

Drosophila is 1000 times cheaper than mice (less than 1 cent/fly)

Drosophila reproduces 50 times more than mice (about 20 flies/day)

Drosophila reproduces the next generation 10 times faster than mice (about 10 days/generation)

Animal testing can be achieved 10,000 times more efficiently than mice

Problems with traditional animal testing

Traditional animal testing with mice faces a variety of challenges that can affect their effectiveness, efficiency, and ethical acceptability. Here are some of the primary issues:

  • 01 Time and cost

    Traditional testing methods can be time-consuming and expensive. For drugs, the development process from lab to market often takes over a decade and costs billions, largely due to the extensive testing required. Food testing also faces similar issues, especially when testing for a broad spectrum of contaminants and quality parameters.

  • Traditional animal testing with mice raises significant ethical issues. The use of mammals in research and testing is increasingly seen as inhumane, and there is growing public and regulatory pressure to reduce or eliminate animal testing and find alternative methods.

  • With the increasing pace of food production and drug development, there is a need for testing methods that can quickly and efficiently handle large volumes of samples. Traditional methods may not meet the demand, potentially slowing down product development and response times to contamination incidents.

  • Some traditional methods may not offer the precision needed for modern applications. False negatives can lead to unsafe products reaching the market, while false positives can result in unnecessary waste of safe products. This is critical in both food and drug testing where safety is paramount.

Why Drosophila?

Drosophila offers several significant advantages: it is compatible with fully automated handling systems, minimizing the need for human intervention; it is cost-effective, being 1000 times cheaper than mice; it reproduces much faster, generating many generations in a fraction of the time it takes mice; and it faces minimal ethical concerns. These benefits allow us to address the core challenges of traditional animal testing. With Drosophila, we can conduct large-scale, individual-level, high-content genetic and chemical screening at high throughput and low cost. This makes testing and drug discovery processes not only more efficient but also more effective.

One of the successful examples of new drug development using Drosophila is vandetanib, a molecularly targeted drug for medullary thyroid cancer. Specifically, there was no useful mouse model that mimicked the RET gene abnormality (RET[M918T]) observed in medullary thyroid cancer patients, but Regius Professor Ross Cagan at the University of Glasgow (our technical advisor) succeeded in creating the first animal model using flies. ZD6474 prolonged recurrence-free survival of patients and was approved as the first molecularly targeted drug called vandetanib for this cancer. Prof. Sonoshita (our board member) of Hokkaido University has also developed the first model fly library that mimics various genotypes of pancreatic cancer and successfully identified new therapeutic drug candidates (international patent pending, to be granted to us).

Products & Services

What we offer

Drug discovery support

We undertake individual-level evaluations (compound screening, genetic screening, identification of disease-causing signaling networks, etc.) on behalf of our clients for diseases for which they wish to create drugs, and provide evaluation results promptly.

Licenses for lead compounds

We provide information and usage licenses for in-house developed lead compounds that target various diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, rheumatism, and diabetes.

Food testing

We conduct individual-level evaluations to ensure the safety, quality, and compliance of food products with legal and health standards on behalf of our clients who wish to develop new food products. We deliver the evaluation results promptly to our clients.

Cosmetics safety testing

We conduct individual-level evaluations to ensure the safety and efficacy of cosmetic products before they reach consumers (e.g., toxicology testing and eye irritation testing). We deliver the evaluation results promptly to our clients.

Team

Founders

Walker Peterson

Chief Executive Officer

Masahiro Sonoshita

Chief Scientific Officer

Keisuke Goda

Chief Technology Officer

FAQ

Our answers to your questions

Can you really study human diseases with Drosophila?

In the way diseases occur, Drosophila and mammals are similar. In fact, Drosophila possesses more than 75% of the genes that have been found to be abnormal in human diseases such as cancer. By reproducing those genetic abnormalities, it is possible to mimic diseases.

Is the drug response of Drosophila similar to that of humans?

In terms of drug response, Drosophila and mammals are similar. In Drosophila, drugs can be easily administered by mixing them with food. The behavior of drugs in the body and the mechanism by which drugs work are similar to those of mammals.

Are there any examples of successful use of Drosophila in the development of new drugs?

Although there were no useful mouse models that mimic the RET gene abnormality (RET[M918T]) observed in medullary thyroid cancer patients, Regius Professor Ross at the University of Glasgow (our technical advisor) succeeded in creating the first animal model using flies. ZD6474 prolonged recurrence-free survival in patients and was approved as the first molecularly targeted drug vandetanib for this cancer.