A device developed by Luke Mercer, a manager in the Institute’s animal facility, will be launched for worldwide sales today.
The device, a hanging board that can be shredded to create nesting material, is designed to provide environmental enrichment for mice kept in research facilities. Enrichment products are items provided to enhance the animal’s environment, stimulate interest and support natural behaviours. A video of mice using an early prototype of the device (shown below) shows how it promotes physical activity as the mice stretch to reach and explore the device, shredding the compressed material to create nests.
The device’s development started in 2017 when Luke entered his innovation idea into the 2017 Janet Wood Innovation Award run by Datesand, a developer and supplier of animal welfare and environmental enrichment products. Narrowly missing out on an award, Datesand recognised the potential of the device and Luke has since worked closely with Datesand to refine its design for large-scale manufacture and distribution as the ‘CellPad’.
Describing the factors influencing the concept of the device Luke said: “The device was developed as a response to many of the currently available enrichment options not being compatible with needs of modern animal facilities. The device takes up very little storage space, works across a wide range of housing types, is fully compostable, and is held away from the cage floor until it’s shredded and used for nest building by the mice. I’m delighted to see this idea become a reality and eager to see how our own mice respond to it.”
In recognition of the innovation of this device, as well as the potential to improve animal welfare, Luke was also awarded the 2018 Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation Prize by the Institute.
In partnership with Datesand, the CellPad has been refined, developed into prototypes and undergone trials in other animal facilities. Today sees the launch of the product to an international market.
Mark Johnson, Corporate Brand Manager at Datesand, said: “Everyone at Datesand was impressed with Luke’s enrichment design when he entered it into our Janet Wood Innovation Award. While it didn’t make it to the final stages of the competition we were determined to develop it into a viable product.
“After a lot of hard work and some setbacks we now feel we have a fantastic enrichment device that combines hanging enrichment and nesting while encouraging natural behaviours of the animals. Everyone at the Babraham Institute has been very supportive at every stage of the development.”
The Institute’s animal facility is widely regarded as a gold-standard facility in how it cares for both the mice housed within it and the staff that care for them. The facility operates on a 24/7 support provision where any animal welfare or facility maintenance issues are responded to as required by the facility’s vets, animal facility management, or the Institute’s on-site engineering department.
Mice within the facility are cared for by teams of animal technicians who are committed to up-holding the highest standards of animal welfare in all aspects of their work. Career advancement and professional development are important elements of the facility’s strategy and the facility makes an important contribution to the training of new animal technicians through offering apprenticeships in partnership with the Institute of Animal Technology.
For more details about the use of animals in research and animal welfare at the Institute, please see our animal research pages.
Dr Louisa Wood, Communications Manager, Babraham Institute, firstname.lastname@example.org
Two mice explore the CellPad enrichment device. Image courtesy of Datesand.
Animal research statement
As a publicly funded research institute, the Babraham Institute is committed to engagement and transparency in all aspects of its research. The activity described here is a demonstration of how the Institute is continuously working to maximise and improve animal welfare.
Please follow the link for further details of our animal research and our animal welfare practices.
About the Babraham Institute
The Babraham Institute undertakes world-class life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Our research focuses on cellular signalling, gene regulation and the impact of epigenetic regulation at different stages of life. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and support healthier ageing. The Institute is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, through an Institute Core Capability Grant and also receives funding from other UK research councils, charitable foundations, the EU and medical charities.
19 October 2020