$900K MTAF grant to boost Jackson process improvements, commercialization opportunities

Date: October 14, 2010
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Augusta, Maine -- At a ceremony at the Hall of Flags, Maine Gov. John Baldacci today announced a $900,000 grant to The Jackson Laboratory from the Maine Technology Asset Fund. The funds will enable the Laboratory to install new equipment, and to implement new workflow management improvements that will also provide commercialization opportunities with Maine business partners.

The nonprofit Jackson Laboratory (JAX), based in Bar Harbor, Maine, conducts research into the genetic basis of cancer and other diseases as well as normal development and aging, and distributes mouse models and other genetic resources to the worldwide biomedical research community. According to Leah Rae Donahue, Ph.D., director of Genetic Resource Science at Jackson, the proliferation of new mouse models has necessitated innovations in workflow management processes--innovations that could be translated into other products and industries.

"In five years," Dr. Hewett notes, "JAX has increased its importation of new genetically engineered mouse models an astounding twelvefold, from 50 per year to 600 new models annually. These models represent a wide variety of human diseases, including diabetes, ALS, Parkinson's and autism. The overwhelming majority require genetic analysis, or genotyping, of every animal prior to distribution. In this process, thousands of samples a day must be collected, transported and tracked from locations throughout JAX to the genotyping laboratory for genetic analysis."

This is a complex system with an intricate workflow that must be performed with precision, Dr. Hewett says, and in the last four years, the volume of work required to accomplish this process has increased more than 150 percent.

"We see the expansion of this workload as an opportunity to develop workflow management systems that allow significantly increased throughput while maintaining accuracy," Dr. Hewett says. "MTAF funding will allow for process improvements in the genotyping laboratory and for outfitting a newly designed mouse facility to meet the growing worldwide demand for genetically engineered mice. This will be accomplished in collaboration with commercial partners with process management expertise, including Lanco Assembly Systems of Westbrook, Maine; Maine Manufacturing in Sanford and Fikst Product Development in Woburn, Mass. Imp;roved systems could be developed commercially for application in other research institutions or industries."

JAX will provide a $1.1 million match for the MTAF grant, which will also fund a racking and caging system to fit out a newly constructed high-health status mouse facility, also built in part with MTAF funding.

This project will generate economic benefit in several ways:

  • Revenue growth and jobs from increased sales of mice, service opportunities and contracts for JAX. In keeping with the institution's nonprofit mission, this revenue will sustain and support growth of research, resource and educational programs, and generate up to 20 new jobs within five years, with average pay of $48,361 plus benefits.
  • Commercialization opportunities for Maine companies that collaborate on the development and distribution of workflow efficiencies, the production of specialized pipette tips, and other consumable plastic ware. Four to six Maine companies will benefit from new or growing markets for devices already in development or production.
  • Indirect jobs in the region that will result from JAX growth, including 11,258 man-hours in the construction trades. In FY07 alone, JAX paid $34.8 million to Maine vendors of goods and services. From 2002 to 2008, the institution's capital budget supported $47.8 million paid to Maine companies through construction contracts.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution with more than 1,300 employees in Bar Harbor, Maine, and Sacramento, Calif. Its mission is to discover the genetic basis for preventing, treating and curing human diseases, and to enable research and education for the global biomedical community. Its 38 research groups investigate the genetic basis of cancers, heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's disease, glaucoma, diabetes and many other human diseases and disorders, as well as normal development, reproduction and aging. The Laboratory is also the world's resource for more than 5,000 strains of genetically defined mice, home of the mouse genome database and an international hub for scientific courses, conferences, training and education.

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Contact(s): Joyce Peterson, 207-288-6058

For information on automatic email delivery of news releases (journalists only), please send an email request for details to news@jax.org. Please address other inquiries to pubinfo@jax.org.

Media Relations, Communications Office
The Jackson Laboratory
600 Main Street
Bar Harbor, Maine 04609-1500
Phone: 207-288-6058 (journalists only)
Main Jackson Laboratory phone: 207-288-6000
Fax: 207-288-6076
Email: news@jax.org