The human connection
Young girl with Rett syndrome connects local family with Jackson's autism research efforts.
Jackson Laboratory Professor John Eppig, Ph.D., was one of 72 prominent scientists in the United States elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2011. The announcement was made on May 3. Eppig joins Professor Emeritus Douglas Coleman, Ph.D., who was awarded the Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine and the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award.
Since joining The Jackson Laboratory in 1975, Eppig has contributed significant insights into the development of eggs in mice and other mammals. His research successes include achieving the first complete in vitro development of mammalian oocytes into a complete organism, the famous mouse known as "Eggbert." Eppig's many other honors include the Pioneer in Reproduction Research Lectureship Award from the Frontiers in Reproduction Research Program and the Carl G. Hartman Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Society for the Study of Reproduction.
"I was totally stunned," Eppig said about learning of his election. "It's a tremendous honor to know that what you've done has been recognized by top scientists around the world."
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) awarded Research Scientist Julie Wells, Ph.D., a two-year, $429,933 grant to explore a promising new approach to studying lung cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.
Wells, who works in the laboratory of Professor Carol Bult, Ph.D., is investigating how small molecules called microRNAs are involved in the progression of a form of lung cancer called pulmonary adenocarcinoma. According to Wells, "Pulmonary adenocarcinoma has a high mortality rate, due in part to the high frequency of metastasis to the other lung and distant sites within the body."
Research in both mouse and human cell lines has shown promise for microRNA-based therapies for lung cancer. The most significant challenge, however, is to determine which genes are regulated by individual microRNAs.
"To overcome this limitation," says Wells, "we are developing a new approach to identify direct interactions between microRNAs and target genes during progression from earlystage to late-stage pulmonary adenocarcinoma in mice."
Information executive Joanne Ruh has joined The Jackson Laboratory and will serve as its new chief information officer (CIO). Ruh succeeds Scott McNeil, who is retiring in July. Ruh's experience includes CIO positions at two other cancer institutes, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Nevada Cancer Institute in Las Vegas. Both institutes are, like The Jackson Laboratory, designated as Cancer Centers by the National Cancer Institute.
"Information technology is an always-changing area further complicated by the dynamic and unique research environment at the Laboratory," says Ruh. "I look forward to the challenge."
Ruh holds a B.A. in economics from the State University of New York at Buffalo and an M.B.A. in health care administration from Canisius College in Buffalo. During her 20-year IT career, she has built expertise in IT security, governance, portfolio management and enterprise architecture, as well as disaster-recovery planning, staff development, customer training and other areas.
More and more students are learning about genetics through the world of dragons and drakes. And it's gaining some favorable attention.
Geniverse is a science-fiction-based computer program that began as GeniQuest at The Jackson Laboratory in 2005. The program shows how genetics works as students breed drakes, a kind of dragon, in a manner that closely matches the genetics software used in real research. One percent of the actual mouse genome stands in for the drake genome, adding to its authenticity.
While visiting TechBoston Academy, one of six schools in New England piloting the Geniverse software, President Barack Obama took notice of the program and said to students, "I want you guys stuck on a video game that's teaching you something other than just blowing something up."
In addition to the Laboratory, the Geniverse team includes the Concord Consortium, the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, TERC (Technical Education Research Centers) based in Cambridge, Mass., and BSCS (Biological Sciences Curriculum Study) in Colorado Springs, Colo. This team is currently in the second year of a five-year National Science Foundation grant that will continue the development of Geniverse and test it in a wide variety of classrooms.
The Jackson Laboratory's new Importation and Isolation research building was named Facility of the Year by ALN Magazine and ALN World in a national competition. The award recognizes outstanding achievements in design and construction of a new or renovated laboratory animal facility. Architectural engineer Rick Burne, who led the project team, accepted the award on behalf of the Laboratory.
The building, completed in July 2010, is a three-story, 22,500-square-foot facility funded in part by the Maine Technology Asset Fund. It houses the Reproductive Sciences operations and allows the Laboratory to receive, house and process "imported" mice of unknown health status delivered from other institutions around the world.
Planning and building the Importation and Isolation facility involved collaboration between the Reproductive Sciences group, led by Rob Taft, Ph.D., and the Facilities Engineering staff. "From the beginning, planning was inclusive, involving the staff that would use the building on a daily basis," notes Taft. The result, he adds, "is a facility that functions exceptionally well, with many unique features that both increase our operational efficiency and reduce waste and energy consumption."
The Jackson Laboratory has a long and illustrious history of awardwinning genetics research. At the 58th annual meeting of the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce, held in May 2011, the Laboratory received recognition for something quite different: its outstanding record as an area employer and driver of the local economy.
The Chamber of Commerce's Top Drawer Award is presented each year to an employer that has made "a substantial contribution to the growth, development and improvement of Ellsworth, Hancock County and the state of Maine." During the meeting program, State Senator and Chamber member Brian Langley read a proclamation from the Maine Legislature congratulating the Laboratory. U.S. Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and U.S. Representative Mike Michaud also sent congratulatory messages.
Executive Vice President Charles Hewett, Ph.D., accepted the award on behalf of the Laboratory. "It's a pleasure for all of us to be part of an exciting business region," Hewett commented. "We provide economic stimulus while working to improve human health, working to solve cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes and other complex diseases."
The Jackson Laboratory's importance to the research community knows no borders. Now its renowned Courses and Conferences program is traveling far and wide to provide resources and expertise to researchers in all corners of the world.
Over the years the program has been celebrated for top-flight instruction and faculty, the environment at the Laboratory's beautiful Bar Harbor, Maine, campus, and the valuable subject matter, including the signature Short Course on Medical and Experimental Mammalian Genetics, now in its 52nd year.
Now the Laboratory is bringing that expertise directly overseas. Following successful remote courses within the United States, instructors flew farther afield to provide courses in colony management, which helps researchers better care for and manage laboratory mice, in Taipei, Taiwan and Bangalore, India.
"Our goal is to provide educational opportunities to the biomedical research community," says John Macauley, senior director of Courses and Conferences. "Many of the research communities that we are engaging are in extreme need of our expertise. Helping to promote good practices in these communities is an important step in fulfilling our mission."
Last year the Maine State Science Fair was in danger of disappearing due to a lack of funding and sponsorship. Instead it found a champion: The Jackson Laboratory. The effort attracted attention statewide and was further enhanced by the Bangor Savings Bank, which on April 7, 2011 awarded $10,000 to the Laboratory to support the fair.
Despite some logistical challenges, including a late change of venue when inclement weather altered scheduling for original host Mount Desert Island High School, the 2011 fair exceeded expectations. In the end, the Laboratory took over host duties and welcomed nearly 100 high school students and 50 judges from throughout Maine for the event. Now, rather than being the one state in the union without a fair, Maine is well on its way to having its students participate in the renowned Intel international science competition for the first time.
The grand prize award and a spot in the Laboratory's prestigious 2011 Summer Student Program went to Michelle Kahn from Greely High School in Cumberland. Kahn's project was "What Factors Contribute to the Breakdown of Oil."
The Jackson Laboratory's National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center plays a vital role in investigating how our genetics contribute to cancer. Meet cancer patients, learn about their compelling stories and their hopes for medical progress, and find out more about our cancer research and discoveries.