Jackson Laboratory

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The Jackson Laboratory
The Jackson Laboratory
Established 1929
Type 501(c) organization
Headquarters Bar Harbor, ME
Leader Edison Liu
Staff
1800
Mission To discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in our shared quest to improve human health
Website jax.org
Located near scenic Frenchman Bay on Mount Desert Island, Maine, The Jackson Laboratory is a nonprofit biomedical research institution.

The Jackson Laboratory (often abbreviated as JAX) is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution dedicated to contributing to a future of better health care based on the unique genetic makeup of each individual. With more than 1,800 employees in Bar Harbor, Maine; Sacramento, California; and at a new genomic medicine institute in Farmington, Connecticut; the Laboratory's mission is to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the global biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health. [1] The institution is a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center and has NIH centers of excellence in aging and systems genetics.

The laboratory is also the world's source for more than 8,000 strains of genetically defined mice, is home of the Mouse Genome Informatics database and is an international hub for scientific courses, conferences, training and education. [2]

Major research areas

Jackson Laboratory research, represented by the activities of more than 60 laboratories, performs research in six areas:

  • Cancer: The Jackson Laboratory Cancer Center (JAXCC) has a National Cancer Institute designated Cancer Center. Cancer areas of focus include: brain, leukemia, lung, lymphoma, prostate, breast; cancer initiation and progression; cancer prevention and therapies
  • Development/Reproductive Biology: birth defects, Down syndrome, osteoporosis, fertility
  • Immunology: HIV-AIDS, anemia, autoimmunity, cancer immunology, immune system disorders, lupus, tissue transplant rejection, vaccines
  • Metabolic diseases: atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity
  • Neurobiology: blindness, Alzheimer’s, deafness, epilepsy, glaucoma, macular degeneration, neurodegenerative diseases
  • Neurobehavioral disorders: autism, addiction, depression

History

Contemporary research highlights

  • A grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences funds the development of new computational tools to understand how multiple genes interact in complex diseases.
  • The National Institute on Aging provides $25 million to develop new treatments, future therapies based on precision modeling.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds phase 2 of the Knockout Mouse Production and Phenotyping Project (KOMP2). [3]
  • A charitable contribution of $8,410,000 from the Harold Alfond® Foundation will support The Jackson Laboratory’s efforts to enhance cancer diagnostics and treatment in Maine.
  • Researchers link mutations to butterfly-shaped pigment dystrophy, an inherited macular disease [4]
  • Jackson Laboratory researchers discover mutation involved in neurodegeneration
  • The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine opens in Farmington, CT. [5]

Historic research highlights

The Jackson Laboratory was founded in 1929 in Bar Harbor, Maine, by former University of Maine and University of Michigan president C. C. Little under the name Roscoe B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory. [6]

  • Established that cancer is a genetic disorder, a novel concept before the Laboratory’s founding in 1929.
  • Dr. Leroy Stevens first described cells that can develop into different tissues – today known as stem cells.
  • Dr. Elizabeth Russell performed the first bone marrow transplants in a mammal, leading to new treatments for blood and immunological diseases.
  • Dr. George Snell won the Nobel Prize in 1980 for providing an in-depth understanding of the immune system’s major histocompatibility complex, making organ transplants possible.
  • Dr. Douglas L. Coleman discovered the hormone leptin, central to obesity and diabetes research, earning him the Shaw Prize, the Albert Lasker Award, the Gairdner International Award, Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Biomedicine, and the King Faisal International Prize in Medicine.
  • Is pioneering the use of cancer avatars – mice with implanted human tumors – to test targeted therapies for cancer patients.

Recent research has provided insight into cancer stem cells and treatments for leukemia; progress with type 1 diabetes and lupus; and a breakthrough in extending mammalian life span.

The Jackson Laboratory Cancer Center

The Jackson Laboratory Cancer Center (JAXCC) first received its National Cancer Institute designation in 1983 in recognition of the foundational cancer research conducted there. The JAXCC is one of seven NCI-designated Cancer Centers with a focus on basic research.

The Jackson Laboratory Cancer Center has a single program, “Genetic Models for Precision Cancer Medicine,” composed of three biological themes: cancer cell robustness, genomic and genetic complexity, and progenitor cell biology. The themes emphasize the systems genetics of cancer and translational cancer genomics, and all are supported by the JAX Cancer Center’s technological initiatives in mouse modeling, genome analytics and quantitative cell biology.

The Morrell Park fire

On May 10, 1989, a flash fire destroyed the Morrell Park mouse production facility. [7] The fire raged for five hours, requiring over 100 firefighters from 15 companies and a total of 16 trucks for the fire to be contained. Four workers of the Colwell Construction Company who were installing fiberglass wallboard in the room where the fire broke out were injured, one with burns over 15 percent of his body. While none of the foundation strains were lost, 300,000 production mice (about 50% of their stock) died, resulting in a national shortage of laboratory mice and the layoff of 60 employees. [8]

This was the second fire to severely affect the laboratory; the 1947 fire that burned most of the island destroyed most of the laboratory, and its mice. Worldwide donations of funds and mice allowed the lab to resume operations in 1948. [9]

Research resources

  • Hosts the Mouse Genome Informatics database, the world’s source for information on mouse genetics and biology.
  • Distributes more than 3 million JAX® mice annually to more than 20,000 investigators in at least 50 countries for research and drug discovery.
  • Offers more than 7,000 genetically defined strains of JAX® mice to the international research community.
  • Provides animal husbandry, reproductive science and in vivo drug efficacy services in a wide range of therapeutic areas for biomedical researchers.
  • Conducts over 100 educational seminars and webinars yearly to educate and enable external biomedical researchers.

Educational programs

  • Summer Student Program has brought thousands of talented high school and college students to campus over 89 years for mentoring, including three who later won Nobel Prizes: David Baltimore, Howard Temin and Jack Szostak.
  • Nearly 700 students, researchers and physicians attend Laboratory courses, conferences and workshops annually.
  • Participates in three collaborative degree programs: the Tufts University Ph.D. program in Genetics, the Ph.D. program in Biomedical Sciences of the University of Maine, and the Master’s of Science in Teaching program of the University of Maine.
  • Offers predoctoral and postdoctoral training programs and a visiting scientists program.
  • Coordinates and hosts the Maine State Science Fair for high school students.

Business model

The Jackson Laboratory is recognized by the IRS as a public charity. [10] According to organization literature, revenue comes primarily from the sale of materials and services (~70%) and from government support (~25%). [11] Less than 5% of 2012 revenue came from charitable donations. [11]

Notable researchers

Controversy

In 2013, a jury in Maine found that Jackson Laboratory did not violate that state’s whistleblower protection law when they fired an employee who claimed to have been terminated after reporting her concerns about the treatment of animals to the National Institutes of Health Office for Laboratory Animal Welfare. The worker accused the laboratory of “allowing mice to suffer and then die in their cages instead of euthanizing them” and of cutting off the toes of mice to identify them. Jackson laboratory denied the allegations and said the worker was fired for her confrontational demeanor. [12]

In 2009, Jackson Laboratory was fined $161,680 by the EPA for improperly handling and storing hazardous materials. [13]


JACKSON LABORATORY INFORMATION


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