2020 Vision: JAX year in review

In 2020, The Jackson Laboratory went into action to help our neighbors in Connecticut fight the pandemic and continue its mission of advancing biomedical research.

COVID-19 response

Integral to our mission to improve human health, JAX was committed to helping address COVID-19 around the world from the very early stages of the pandemic. From  New collaboration designed to improve COVID-19 testing for first responders Town of West Hartford and The Jackson Laboratory announce a new collaboration designed to improve COVID-19 testing for West Hartford public safety.testing more than one million patient samples for first responders and healthcare providers, developing  hACE2 transgenic mouse model for coronavirus (COVID-19) researchCommonly used wild-type mouse strains are not optimal for studying infections of the newly discovered coronavirus. Fortunately, a transgenic model at JAX is now available to fill the unmet need for an in vivo experimental platform for COVID-19 research.mouse models for COVID-19 research,  Saving science by saving miceJAX plays a special role in maintaining and distributing genetically defined mouse models to the worldwide scientific community. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, JAX is mounting an extraordinary rescue effort to help scientists facing shutdowns. assisting labs in Connecticut and around the world,  Unlocking age-dependent coronavirus susceptibilityGenetically varied mouse populations revealing genetic elements contributing to SARS-CoV-2 infection risk.research on COVID-19 immunity and antibodies, to  Genetics Learning ResourcesGenetics learning resources developed by The Jackson Laboratory Genomic Education. Most content is created for high school teachers and students in grades 9-12, but may be suitable for other audiences. education resources for learners of all stages, JAX has been at the scientific forefront in combating COVID-19.

Expanded virtual learning

As schools around the country closed their doors and opened virtual learning opportunities, JAX sought to help expand upon the genetics and genomics educational tools that were available for teachers virtually. Seeking to inspire and empower those interested in working towards improving human health, the JAX Genomic Education team developed a  JAX Online Learningcatalog of remote options, including a COVID-19 curriculum, for educating “scientists” throughout all stages of their careers from high school-aged students to late-stage researchers. 

Seeking to explain the science behind the coronavirus, in response to the many questions in the community regarding COVID-19, JAX created a library of bite-sized information, short animations and articles on topics ranging from testing to social distancing to vaccine development.  These scientific, fact-based tools explain many of the concepts touched upon in the media for a better understanding of this pandemic and precautions the public can use to protect themselves.

 

Looking ahead: Tackling the mysteries of disease

Researchers at JAX are focused on discovering the genetic and molecular causes of human health including the microbiome, immunology, and diseases like cancer, diabetes, muscle and bone degeneration, rare diseases, and much more. Research from JAX Genomic Medicine are making headlines across the globe:

  • The Mighty Mice – who spent 30 days on the International Space Station – are helping us learn more about preventing muscle and bone loss in astronauts and in people with muscle wasting illnesses and conditions here on Earth
  • Collaborating with Microsoft’s Project Hanover, JAX’s Clinical Knowledgebase incorporates artificial intelligence and machine learning to accelerate the identification of the best possible cancer treatments based on specific tumor profiles
  • With a focus on immune disorders and genomics, our researchers are world-renowned in areas including ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome), how genetic variants increase the risk of autoimmune diseases, why vaccines like the flu vaccine are less effective in the elderly, among others
  • Our computational biology team is paving the way for the most advanced precision medicine and cancer treatments

More discoveries lie just beyond the horizon; JAX received more than $100 million in grants for new research in 2020. JAX also experienced a record-breaking year for philanthropy in 2020, raising more than $20 million in support of its mission to improve human health—more than in any other year in the Laboratory’s history. JAX donors came together to  JAX donors contribute $100,000 to new COVID-19 modelsA generous gift from Jackson Laboratory (JAX) donors will support the development of new humanized mouse models for beating COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has infected over 7 million worldwide, killing over 400,000 people. support COVID-19 research , making gifts towards the development of innovative, more accurate mouse models that authentically mimic human responses to the viral life cycle. Supporters also made transformational gifts toward  Diana Davis Spencer Foundation pledges $4M to JAX for vision researchFunding will support scientific research and training activities in the field of neurodegenerative diseases of the eye, including graduate and postdoctoral fellowship training and research projects in glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and ocular signs of Alzheimer’s disease. vision research, the  Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative expands; offers clinical trials and new technologyThe Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative (MCGI), a collaboration aimed at making the latest personalized medicine available to cancer patients throughout Maine, will now bring new precision oncology clinical trials to the state, support access to targeted therapies for patients not eligible for trials, and develop novel technology to enhance genomic education and genetic services through online platforms. Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative,  Anonymous gift will help teach the genome generationA budding genomics education program will expand to teachers nationwide through the creation of an online course in personal genomics for high school STEM educators. STEM education and more.

Putting people first

JAX has been a leader in taking care of its team during the pandemic.  From sending “smart thermometers” to each employee for temperature tracking (at a time when even the least high-tech models were sold out) to shipping high quality, reusable face masks to every employee’s home before they were widely available, providing 80 hours of paid time off to employees that could be used for school and camp closures or to help care for loved ones and ease the burden of the pandemic, to universal, regular employee COVID testing, establishing a COVID-19 crisis fund for JAX families in need, and so much more, JAX has put its employees first time and again.