Mouse for sale. The new facility will provide West Coast researchers with Jax mice.

Mouse House Moves West

A leading purveyor of lab mice is going coast to coast. The Jackson Laboratory of Bar Harbor, Maine, announced today that it will open a West Coast outpost in cooperation with the University of California (UC), Davis, in a bid to make genetically customized mice more available to researchers across the western United States.

Over the last few decades, the mouse has become the most popular biomedical research animal in the world, in large part because it can be inexpensively bred to mimic a wide range of human diseases, from epilepsy to cancer. The Jackson Lab, for instance, maintains more than 2300 mouse varieties at its Maine headquarters--from hairless and obese mutants, to "waltzing mice" that have a neurological disorder that makes them spin in circles. Researchers buy more than 2 million "Jax" mice each year, making the nonprofit one of world's leading lab mouse providers in the world.

Now, the lab will expand its reach with a new $10.6 million center, to be housed in several refurbished buildings near the UC Davis campus. The collaborative facility will house up to 30,000 mice in special disease-free colonies. It will also support labs that create "transgenic" and "knockout" mice, which have had genes added or removed to study the role that specific genes play in disease.

Researchers at the host campus are looking forward to the rodent invasion. The school's medical and veterinary programs "will be greatly enhanced" by the ready supply of research subjects, says Stephen Barthold, director of the UC Davis Center for Comparative Medicine. The first colonies are scheduled to arrive early next year, once renovations are complete.