13th FELASA Congress, 13-16 June, 2016 – Brussels, Belgium
Respectfully submitted by Boris Jerchow:

Together with Board members Benoît Kanzler and Branko Zevnik, I had the chance to take part in the 2016 edition of the triennial conference of the Federation of European Laboratory Science Associations (FELASA), which took place in Brussels, Belgium, between June 13 and 16. With the kind support of our members Sandra Buhl and Kristin Evans we represented ISTT with a booth. The meeting mainly covered topics important for those involved in laboratory animal science. The conference was divided into six streams:
• Governance, including reports on the transposition of 2010 EU Directive aimed at harmonizing animal welfare standards throughout Europe that has a lot of impact on our work but is still in a phase in which the new regulations are being implemented in daily routines. The stream also addressed active information of the public and ways to conduct an ethical review process. Aurora Brønstad, who also presented at TT2016 in Prague, spoke on the important topic of harm-benefit analysis of animal experiments [1, 2].
• Joint programs across Europe, including education and training, competence management, and 3Rs programs, to name just a few.
• Safety issues with a strong focus on health monitoring of aquatic, amphibian, and rodent species. Moreover, this stream included topics such as occupational health and safety and best working practices but also best practices for husbandry and care, quality of feed, water, and enrichment.

• Common diseases of humans and animals. This stream addressed disease and disease models for metabolic disease, cancer, and also infectious disease including zoonoses. It also included presentations on BLS3 facilities and research with non-human primates.
• Animal well-being emphasized the importance of using the broad understanding of what is going on inside an animal to assess and improve its well-being. The stream contained presentations and discussions about behavioral and neural science, as well as severity assessment, prospectively and also during the time when while animals are being used experimentally by employing clinical signs to recognize pain, suffering distress or lasting harm. I found the latter notably important for our community as we are the ones generating and using genetically altered (GA) animals that may well present with a condition affecting their well-being that should be taken into account before starting the experiment and closely followed during their lifetime. GA animals should also be monitored for unforeseen effects that may compromise their well-being and measures to alleviate pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm should be taken

whenever possible.
• Animal models and animal experiments. For this session I had been asked to convene a session with the title “Genetic modification – technologies and pitfalls”. Together with Ann van Soom, Tom Vanden Berghe and Lluis Montoliu, we informed the audience about the latest technologies in the field, the relevance of the non-coding genome, the threat of passenger mutations, and epigenetic effects. Other sessions in this stream discussed experimental design and reporting, how to process, share, and review acquired as well as existing data, imaging techniques, and various experimental paradigms.
In general there was a strong focus on animal welfare, especially on refinement of procedures, which was present over all streams and sessions. Much of the conference was under the influence of the still ongoing implementation of the regulations of the EU Directive on animal experimentation. Due to the importance of European scientific activities in the world, the pressure on scientific publishers to adopt higher animal welfare and reporting standards, and tight cooperation with countries outside the EU, namely the United States, these regulations will impact on animal experimentation worldwide. The same is true for health standards where FELASA guidelines have already become a gold standard. Although FELASA Conferences draw an audience quite distinct from our TT Meetings, there is a small but important overlap in interest. I am convinced that the ISTT should keep on striving to foster a vivid exchange with FELASA and the laboratory animal science community.

1. Bronstad, A., et al., Current concepts of Harm-Benefit Analysis of Animal Experiments – Report from the AALAS-FELASA Working Group on Harm-Benefit Analysis – Part 1. Lab Anim, 2016. 50(1 Suppl): p. 1-20.
2. Laber, K., et al., Recommendations for Addressing Harm-Benefit Analysis and Implementation in Ethical Evaluation – Report from the AALAS-FELASA Working Group on Harm-Benefit Analysis – Part 2. Lab Anim, 2016. 50(1 Suppl): p. 21-42.

Benoit Kanzler, Sandra Buhl and Boris Jerchow
Pens and futbol at the ISTT Booth

Report from the AALAS 66th National Meeting, Phoenix, Arizona, 1-5 November, 2015

The International Society for Transgenic Technologies was represented at the AALAS National Meeting this year by ISTT President Jan Parker-Thornburg, ISTT Administrator Pat Arubaleze, and ISTT’s AALAS Representative Melissa Larson. Jan and Pat set up the ISTT booth in the Affiliates section of the vendor hall on Sunday, exhibiting posters, membership literature and information regarding TT2016 in Prague. Literature was also available advertising the new online Transgenic Course for the AALAS Learning Library, written by ISTT members. The booth was manned by Jan, Pat and Melissa over the next three days, and they answered questions and provided membership information to over 32 people who stopped by to chat, including several ISTT members. The ISTT was also represented at the Affiliates Breakfast, which affords each affiliate the opportunity to discuss their organization, share updates and highlight upcoming events.

AALAS 2015ISTT President Dr. Jan Parker-Thornburg chats with FELASA (Federation of European Animal Science Associations) Past- President Dr. Jan-Bas Prins at the ISTT booth, while ISTT Administrator Pat Arubaleze looks on at the AALAS National Meeting 2015.

Meeting report: Promoting the international exchange of mouse mutant resources

Infrafrontier-IMPC workshop: Promoting the international exchange of mouse mutant resources, Munich, Germany, 8-9 May 2014
Infrafrontier-IMPC workshop: Promoting the international exchange of mouse mutant resources, Munich, Germany, 8-9 May 2014

This is a brief meeting report on the INFRAFRONTIER /IMPC workshop: Promoting the international exchange of mouse mutant resources, which was held in Munich, Germany, on 08-09 May 2014.
As indicated in the corresponding Infrafrontier web page: “The main objectives of the workshop were to discuss how to simplify the international exchange of mouse mutant resources and to define the procedural changes to achieve it, to review the key issues facing the mouse community and mouse repositories as well as focus on IP issues and to present best practices in sharing research tools. The workshop was targeted at the directors of major mouse repositories, IP and technology transfer experts, representatives of scientific journals and funders and attracted the attention of 70 participants.” Delegates from major mouse repositories (JAX, MMRRC, EMMA, CMMR, RIKEN BRC, CARD, MARC), mouse international projects and consortia (EUCOMM, EUCOMMTOOLS, KOMP, KOMP2, IKMC, IMPC, KMPC), other related consortia (SGC), scientific journals (Nature, PLOS), funding agencies (NIH), companies (BioDoc, Charles River, AddGene), associations (AMMRA, AMPC, FELASA, EARA), TTOs and lawyers from numerous institutions and end-users gathered to discuss about how to best promote the international exchange of mouse mutant resources.

This workshop was funded by the EC FP7 InfraCoMP project. InfraCoMP’s main objective is to coordinate the collaborative efforts between the Infrafrontier Research Infrastructure and the International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium (IMPC). The scope of this Infrafrontier-IMPC workshop in Munich included various major topics, such as:

  • to discuss about simplified procedures to effectively exchange mouse mutant resources among repositories and between repositories and end-users/customers, trying to review and fix all restrictions preventing from adequately sharing major mouse mutant resources.
  • to review the key issues currently faced by the mouse community and mouse repositories, including emerging new genome editing technologies (ZFNs, TALENs, CRISPRs) and the role of mouse archives in the international exchange of mouse mutant resources
  • to discuss on IP issues and the administrative paperwork usually associated with any transactional international negotiation involving licenses and MTAs
  • to showcase best practices, examples of successful sharing research tools that could be applied on sharing mouse mutant resources

This workshop represented a continuation towards the eventual application of the agreements included in the so-called Rome Agenda, published in 2009 (Schofield et al. 2009, Nature) where the major headlines, best practices and recommendations concerning the deposit and sharing of biological resources, including mice, ES cells and germplasm, under the least restrictive terms possible, had been already discussed and identified but, unfortunately, not sufficiently widespread nor systematically followed, in spite of new initiatives adopted by some funding agencies, enforcing public-access policies for materials associated with projects funded by the NIH or the Wellcome Trust in order to receive the allocated funds.

The impact of the new genome editing technologies on current mouse consortia and mouse archives was discussed at length and in depth, from various angles and by different speakers. It is obvious that a new logic has emerged, the updated mouse genetics toolbox and its widespread among scientists enables them to generate their mouse mutants of interest through alternative, often faster approaches. Instead of considering the new endonuclease-mediated mutations solely a threat for traditional approaches, based on ES cell clones (however using higher genetic and quality-controlled standards), it was finally interpreted as an opportunity for mouse consortia and repositories. For example, the easier and faster generation of new mouse mutations could help finishing the functional annotations of the mouse genome, for all these loci that could not be targeted or, if targeted, did not result in the corresponding mouse strain through IKMC-IMPC current approaches.

The description of innovative shipment methods, for refrigerated biological materials, or using dry-ice, as compared to the standard but more complex liquid-nitrogen dry shippers was also discussed in order to make the distribution of mouse mutant resources cheaper and easier. The new set of sperm and oocyte cryopreservation methods and the optimized associated IVF procedures, as reported by CARD, Kumamoto University, in Japan, have also greatly contributed to promote the international exchange of mouse mutant resources, avoiding the always difficult and expensive shipment of live research laboratory animals.

The legal agreements, such as Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs), governing the access to mouse mutant resources were also discussed extensively. The complexity of some of these MTAs and the often long administrative process involved for executing them, unnecessarily extends the time required to access to a given mouse mutant strain deposited in a major repository for academic use. Interesting analyses of common practices observed within the international mouse community and applied by mouse consortia were presented (Bubela et al. 2012; Mishra and Bubela, 2014). The overall recommendation was, whenever possible, avoid using specific MTAs and favor the unrestrictive distribution of mouse resources through simpler “conditions of use”, as regularly applied by The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) to all their mouse strains, and by EMMA-INFRAFRONTIER, for mouse lines non-associated to specific MTAs, in order also to reduce the administrative time to the minimum. In case MTAs should be included, for academic non-commercial use, the recommendations discussed were to simplify, and unify, the document as much as possible, ideally without requesting to disclose the field of use, without imposing reach through on modifications of the received materials and clearly defining third-party use after permission has been obtained. Attribution should also be clearly encouraged. Examples of simplified MTAs, also including useful institutional versions of these agreements, can be found at KOMP. The model deployed by AddGene, a non-profit organization dedicated to efficiently distribute plasmids among the scientific community, using also simple MTA procedures, was also presented as an example of successful solution.

Overall, this intense 2-day Infrafrontier-IMPC workshop fulfilled its aims and expectations. All stakeholders in the field could openly express their opinions, fears, opportunities, problems and solutions. The Organizers should be praised for their selection of speakers, topics and participants. Now it will be the time for the most difficult part: converting the agreements and recommendations into realities, while ensuring that researchers in academia, using mouse mutant resources, have an easier, simpler and faster access to mice and/or their associated products, for the benefit of science, and knowledge advance.

Infrafrontier-IMPC workshop: Promoting the international exchange of mouse mutant resources, Munich, Germany, 8-9 May 2014
Infrafrontier-IMPC workshop: Promoting the international exchange of mouse mutant resources, Munich, Germany, 8-9 May 2014

The new (2014) FELASA recommendations for the health monitoring of mouse, rat, hamster, guinea pig and rabbit colonies in breeding and experimental units have been released as open access document from Laboratory Animals journal web page

The new (2014) FELASA recommendations for the health monitoring of mouse, rat, hamster, guinea pig and rabbit colonies in breeding and experimental units have been released as open access document from Laboratory Animals journal web page
The new (2014) FELASA recommendations for the health monitoring of mouse, rat, hamster, guinea pig and rabbit colonies in breeding and experimental units have been released as open access document from Laboratory Animals journal web page

The new (2014) FELASA recommendations for the health monitoring of mouse, rat, hamster, guinea pig and rabbit colonies in breeding and experimental units have been released as open access document from Laboratory Animals journal web page. This updated reference document has been prepared by the FELASA working group on revision of guidelines for health monitoring of rodents and rabbits, formed by Michael Mähler (Convenor, GV-SOLAS), Marion Bérard (AFSTAL), Ricardo Feinstein (Scand-LAS), Alec Gallagher (LASA), Brunhilde Illgen-Wilcke (SGV), Kathleen Pritchett-Corning (AALAS) and Marcello Raspa (AISAL and ISTT Member). The previous and up-to-now current FELASA recommendations for the health monitoring of rodents and rabbits had been published in 2002 (Nicklas et al. 2002, Laboratory Animals). Therefore this new document, released in 2014, substitutes and updates the previous guidelines reported 12 years ago.

As it is stated in the abstract of this updated 2014 FELASA recommendations document: “These recommendations are aimed at all breeders and users of laboratory mice, rats, Syrian hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits as well as diagnostic laboratories. They describe essential aspects of health monitoring, such as the choice of agents, selection of animals and tissues for testing, frequency of sampling, commonly used test methods, interpretation of results and health monitoring reporting“. FELASA and, in particular, the co-authors of this compelling updated recommendations for health monitoring of rodents and rabbits need to be praised for this work. This document will not only help and contribute to the desired harmonization of the health monitoring programmes across animal facilities but also it will provide important elements for the correct preparation and interpretation of Health Monitoring results.