Building on excellence: The Jackson Laboratory's 2023 achievements

As 2023 comes to a close, The Jackson Laboratory is celebrating the many accomplishments of its nearly 3,000 employees around the world. Some of this year’s highlights include important research breakthroughs, new faculty and leadership appointments, and crucial advancements in legislation.

Significant publications and major grants

Throughout the year, JAX research was featured in several high-impact and scientific peer-reviewed journals, including Nature and Cell.

Research at JAX will continue to be funded by more than $100 million in new federal, peer-reviewed foundation and other external funding. In 2023, JAX had an impressive grant success rate of 39% through the third quarter of the year (compared to the overall NIH success rate of 22.9% in 2022), resulting in approximately 95 awards that will fund the nonprofit biomedical research institution’s diverse areas of scientific study.

Highlights of 2023 research and funding include:



  • Over five years, Jeff Chuang, Ph.D., and Associate Professor Olga Anczuków-Camarda, Ph.D., will receive $2.5 million in support of their efforts to build transcriptomic infrastructure to profile healthy, aging breast tissues as well as breast tumors to aid in developing new approaches for breast cancer detection, intervention and prevention.
  • Published in Aging CellAssociate Professor Duygu Ucar, Ph.D., outlined a protein complex called activating protein-1 (AP-1), a key pro-inflammatory signal regulator in response to external stressors, to determine how signaling changed with age, and identified two gene families as the most significant aging signal and a potential biomarker for immune aging.

Rare disease

  • Published in Science, Vice President of JAX’s Rare Disease Translational Center Cat Lutz, Ph.D., MBA, was part of a team of researchers who revealed how pre-mRNA processing and proper production regulate stathmin-2, and how stathmin-2 processing dysfunction can lead to neurodegenerative diseases, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
  • With a five-year award totaling $1.7 million, Associate Professor and Director of KOMP Model Development Steve Murray, Ph.D., will continue his functional validation of genomic risk variants in orofacial clefting.
  • Cat Lutz, Ph.D., MBA, received five awards this year, most notably $22.8 million to advance her preclinical genome editing work for rare neurological diseases over the next five years.

Technology advancement

  • Published in Nature, Scientific Director, Professor and Alvine Family Endowed Chair Charles Lee, Ph.D., FACMG, and colleagues generated 43 complete Y chromosome sequences from a diverse group of males around the globe, providing insight into Y chromosome variation and its potential effects on health.
  • Assistant Professor Christine Beck, Ph.D., led a team that leveraged advanced long-read sequencing technologies to identify genomic structural variation across 20 genetically diverse mouse strains, published in Cell Genomics.

Gene editing

  • Professor Bill Skarnes, Ph.D., received funding totaling $6.0 million over the next two years to further progress the iPSC NeuroDegeneration Initiative project to develop and distribute valuable cell lines for research into Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disease.

Immunology and autoimmune disease

  • Research Scientist James Godwin, Ph.D., received a grant totaling $2.4 million over the next five years for his efforts in determining the potential of disarming immunological barriers to regeneration in mammals.
  • Scientific Director and Professor Nadia Rosenthal, Ph.D., F.Med.Sci., and collaborators presented a genetically diverse mouse panel that effectively mimicked the range of human COVID-19 severity published in Nature Communications.
  • A five-year grant was awarded to Associate Research Scientist Jeremy Racine, Ph.D., for $2.4 million to fund his efforts in understanding the cellular and genetic mechanisms of autoimmune diabetes associated with neuritis.
  • Associate Professor Duygu Ucar, Ph.D., investigated long-term changes to the immune system that may help explain aspects of long COVID, published in Cell.


  • Published in Cell Host & Microbe, Associate Professor Julia Oh, Ph.D., and Professor Derya Unutmaz, M.D., reported their analysis of the gut microbiomes and blood metabolites in short- and long-term myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome patients. Their goal was to find differences in the microbiome composition and abundance metabolites associated with microbial activity, yielding disease classifiers that provide new insight for possible diagnostics and therapies.

Research facilities

  • With support from U.S. Senator Susan Collins, JAX was awarded $3.5 million in congressionally directed spending to help modernize mouse room facilities on the Bar Harbor, Maine, campus, benefitting JAX’s research and the broader biomedical community.

Building on our commitment to rare diseases

In 2022, JAX marked its commitment to rare disease research by establishing the Rare Disease Translational Center, which aims to empower rare disease solutions through partnerships, innovation, precision engineering and scaled pre-clinical pipelines to bring targeted therapies from lab to clinic swiftly and effectively. In the nearly two years since the Center was established, it has grown significantly, adding 23 new employees and supporting over 40 collaborations with rare disease patient foundations, academia and biotech. One example is a collaboration with Actio Biosciences, a new biotech startup working with the Center to engineer representational rare disease mouse models in order to more accurately vet potential therapeutics.

In addition, the JAX Genomic Education team released two new online courses in the past year, Exploring Rare Disease Through Translational Research and The Complexity of Rare Disease. These courses are free, web-based and built for anyone with an interest in the patient journey and rare disease translational research using mouse models.

Ending endometriosis

Connecticut positioned itself to become a hub for endometriosis research and innovation following the unanimous passage of House Bill 662, “An Act Concerning Endometriosis,” to bring greater awareness, action and care options to those suffering from the condition. Elise Courtois, Ph.D., an endometriosis researcher and director of single cell biology at JAX, helped make this possible through her dedicated advocacy efforts as a prominent force in Connecticut’s Endometriosis Working Group. With the bill’s passage, Courtois and her collaborator at UConn Health, Director for Minimally Invasive Gynecological Surgery Danielle Luciano, M.D., will build an endometriosis biorepository program which enables the collection and combination of surgical, clinical and biological information from endometriosis patients statewide. It will foster basic research and clinical collaborations designed to help understand the disease and catalyze the advancement of new diagnostics, treatments and cures for endometriosis patients.

Receiving awards and granting them

For her efforts in endometriosis research and advocacy, Elise Courtois, Ph.D., received the Connecticut Technology Council Women of Innovation award in the research innovation and leadership category, which recognizes the accomplishments of women who have developed new knowledge or products.

JAX received the 2023 Plan Sponsor of the Year award presented by PLANSPONSOR magazine, a professional publication that focuses on retirement programs. The award recognizes retirement plan sponsors who show a commitment to their participants’ financial health and retirement success. In speaking about this award, Emily Schorer, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at JAX said, “Taking good care of the people who have chosen to dedicate their career, time, and effort to JAX and our mission to improve human health is top of mind each and every day.”

In addition to the awards that JAX received, JAX was also honored to present awards that bolster the next generation of scientists. This year three high school students in Maine, Connecticut and California who are planning to pursue degrees in the biosciences were each awarded a scholarship of $10,000. This was the sixth year of the JAX College Scholarship program which has granted a combined $170,000 to students pursuing higher education in the sciences.

Similarly, JAX supported two Tunxis Foundation Scholarships totaling $2,000 for students engaged in STEM coursework at Tunxis Community College in Connecticut. These scholarships advance JAX’s efforts to support STEM education opportunities for students in underserved communities.

Also in Connecticut, JAX funded a special cash award, the JAX Urban Achievement Award, to encourage participation of underrepresented students in the Lt. Governor’s Coding Challenge, a statewide coding competition for Connecticut students. In 2023, JAX awarded $750 in three different categories.

New faces in faculty and leadership

JAX welcomed five new faculty members to the Bar Harbor, Maine, and Farmington, Conn., campuses, bringing our faculty members total to 61. Joining us in Bar Harbor were Associate Professor Phillip West, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor Rafiou Agoro, Ph.D. In Farmington we welcomed Professor Silke Paust, Ph.D., and Assistant Professors Frederick Varn, Ph.D., and Sasan Jalili, Ph.D. These faculty members bring a diverse pool of knowledge in research areas including systems biology, immunology, AI in cancer research, mitochondrial function, the microbiome and more.

In addition to faculty members who contribute to the vital research performed at JAX, the leadership team also grew by five new members, each serving in a critical area to advance our mission. Paul Flicek, D.Sc., joined JAX as inaugural chief data science officer to build a global data science initiative, enhancing the Laboratory’s research and discovery enterprise and building a robust team of data scientists. Gina Rodriguez was appointed as vice president of advancement and will lead a team responsible for philanthropic efforts in support of JAX’s mission. Life sciences industry leader Mitchell Kennedy joined JAX as executive vice president and president of JAXÒ Mice and Clinical Research Services, an important role that will advance and increase availability of key mouse models and resources. Responsible for promoting JAX’s mission and impact with key audiences around the world, JAX was pleased to welcome Meghan Finn as vice president and chief communications officer. Lastly, Andy Greene, Ph.D., a professor at JAX since 2019, was appointed to the role of senior vice president of research, where he is responsible for establishing and managing research policies and operations, as well as integrating JAX as a cohesive force in the field of genetic and genomic research.

Supporting our communities

JAX values its role as a part of its surrounding neighborhoods and helping those in need. In 2023, employees from across the United States volunteered more than 2,300 hours of their time to organizations including the Sacramento Food Bank, America’s Vet Dogs, the Alzheimer’s Association, Jesup Memorial Library, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners, and local high schools and YMCAs amongst others. Volunteering in these ways is made possible at JAX due to a Volunteer Time Off benefit, allowing employees to take two full days per year to volunteer with a nonprofit organization of their choice.

In addition to this type of support in the community, JAX was also proud to participate in several awareness and fundraising walks in Maine, California and Connecticut to show support, including the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, and the Denise D’Ascenzo Foundation’s Walk to Fight Rare Diseases.

Finally, in August, employees at our Farmington, Conn., campus had the pleasure of hosting a Make-A-Wish visit for Evie, a 15-year-old who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2016. Evie hopes to, one day, become an oncologist with a focus on pediatric cancer research.  Her week-long wish experience was exploring pediatric cancer research at facilities like JAX.