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Recognising the mouse as an important experimental model

by Guest Author on 5 Jul 2019

Fiona Watt

Last week we published a statement about the reasons why we’re conducting a strategic review of mouse genetics. Here our Executive Chair Professor Fiona Watt provides some more information about the process.

The review is looking at long-term needs in mouse genetics that reflect the changing environment and the role of the MRC Harwell Institute. In September 2018 a face-to-face meeting of a panel of scientists with broad-ranging expertise considered the landscape, including written perspectives from a number of national and international leaders in mouse and human genetics.

Beyond providing input into the face-to-face meeting, Steve Brown (MRC Harwell Director), Sara Wells (Mary Lyon Centre Director) and colleagues had the opportunity to suggest names of leaders to consult and the questions they were asked.

The report was agreed with panel members and sent to MRC Strategy Board. Steve and Sara received the report and the anonymously written perspectives. They then made presentations to MRC Strategy Board with their response to the report and its recommendations.

A full consultation of all Harwell staff is ongoing, allowing further opportunities to respond to emerging views that will shape discussions at the next Strategy Board meeting in September. A decision will be made by MRC Council at the end of the year.

It’s important to highlight that we recognise the critical importance of the mouse as an experimental model. The review is not seeking to dis-invest in mouse research, but instead is seeking to establish the most effective approach to support research in the UK.

We also recognise the essential services, knowledge, training, leadership and skills the Mary Lyon Centre provides to the UK academic community and are committed to sustaining these in the future.

Provisional views are that MRC support for programmatic research should move away from a centralised Unit model towards a more distributed academic network, and thus the Mammalian Genetics Unit should discontinue in its current form. A number of options to meet the needs of mouse genetics are available and none have been discounted at this stage. We look forward to working with all parties to ensure we can effectively meet current and future needs in mouse genetics.

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