BAR HARBOR, Maine — The Jackson Laboratory is getting $900,000 from the Maine Technology Asset Fund to help the lab improve the management of its increasing workload, according to lab officials.
The grant, which is being matched with $1.1 million in funding from the lab, will help pay for the installation of new specialized equipment and to implement streamlined processes in the lab’s genetic analysis workload, the lab indicated in a statement released Thursday. The lab now deals with more strains of specially bred mice, or models, than it did just a few years ago.
“In five years, The Jackson Laboratory has increased its importation of new genetically engineered mouse models an astounding twelvefold, from 50 per year to 600 new models annually,” Dr. Leah Rae Donahue, the lab’s director of genetic resource science, said in the release. “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 [the lab’s campus] to the genotyping laboratory for genetic analysis.”
The volume of work for this complex, intricate process has increased more than 150 percent in the last four years, Donahue added.
“The 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,” she said.
According to Jackson Lab officials, the project should result in increased revenue for the lab and, as a result, within five years lead to the creation of up to 20 new jobs with average pay of $48,361 plus benefits. The development of specialized equipment used in the work flow improvement could lead to other commercial opportunities for the lab’s for-profit partners and to job creation outside the lab, the statement indicated.
The lab will be working with Lanco Assembly Systems of Westbrook, Maine Manufacturing of Sanford and Fikst Product Development of Woburn, Mass., lab officials said.
“They’re going to make a custom system for us,” Joyce Peterson, spokeswoman for the lab, said Thursday.
Jackson Lab is known internationally for its use of mice to research human disease and medical conditions. Each year, it breeds millions of specially bred laboratory mice that are used in similar studies all over the world.
With nearly 1,200 employees at its Bar Harbor campus, Jackson Lab is the largest employer in eastern Maine. It also employs more than 100 people in Sacramento, Calif., and other locations, and is looking to expand to a proposed multipartner research facility in Collier County, Fla.