December 3, 2012

If Disaster Strikes, How Will You Recover?

Hurricane Sandy seriously impacted the lives of tens of thousands who found themselves in its path. Included in this group are many of the scientists at New York University (NYU). They lost thousands of research animals, and their research has been set back years (CNN 2012; New York Times 2012; The Scientist 2012). Immediately after the storm, we reached out to NYU and their researchers and are working with them to restart their research programs. The process will take months for some and years for others.

To encourage all researchers to review their disaster preparedness plans and ensure that their research mice are safeguarded, we have designated December 2012 as "Disaster Preparedness Month." Throughout the month, we'll be highlighting tools and resources you can use to either formulate or update your disaster preparedness plans.

Sandy destroys research animals

Gordon J. Fishell, associate director of the New York University (NYU) Neuroscience Institute lost about 2,500 mice from 40 different strains to hurricane Sandy. Says Fishell, "These animals were the culmination of 10 years of work, and it will take time to replace them." Other labs in the same building (the Smilow building) lost approximately 7,500 more rodents. Cells and tissue samples stored in refrigerators and freezers were destroyed. The backup generators in the basement were flooded and failed. "It's so horrible, you don't even want to think about it," says Michelle Krogsgaard, a cancer biologist who runs a lab in the Smilow building. "All the work we did, all the time and money, we're going to have to start all over. We could lose everything we've done since I started at NYU 6 years ago." (The Scientist 2012)

Numerous other articles, including one on CNN (CNN 2012) and one in the New York Times (New York Times 2012), chronicle Sandy's destruction of research and research animals.

Cryopreservation, an inexpensive insurance policy for your research

It takes 6-18 months and costs about $100,000 to develop and characterize a genetically engineered mouse. It typically costs a minimum of $6,000 a year to maintain even a small colony of such a mouse. Many of you maintain several such colonies. How would you recover if you lost them? It's not just natural disasters, such as powerful storms, earthquakes, and fires, that can surprise you. It's also more subtle threats, such as disease, equipment failure, or genetic drift. By cryopreserving your critically important research strains, you can significantly mitigate the risks from these threats. Virtually all researchers have access to cryopreservation through their own on-site core facilities or The Jackson Laboratory.

The Jackson Laboratory's resources

Our pioneering breakthroughs in reproductive technologies make it possible for you to cryopreserve and recover mouse strains quickly, reliably, and cost-effectively. We can help you choose the best way (embryo or sperm) to cryopreserve your strains. We have cryopreserved the germplasm of over 20,000 unique mouse strains and safely stored it in three tanks at two different locations. We can do the same for you. Should a disaster strike, we can quickly recover your mice and either ship them directly back to your vivarium or breed them for you and provide you with research cohorts or an entire colony when your vivarium is repaired.

Start planning now!

If you don't have a plan to deal with unforeseen disasters, why not make one? Visit our Disaster Planning and Preparedness page.

You'll also find some great information at the NIH's Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare:

Need more information? Contact us toll free at 1-800-422-6423 (US, Canada & Puerto Rico), 1-207-288-5845 (from any location), or