Rats! Singapore to get a steady supply
InVivos to set up animal breeding facility in Lim Chu Kang to support research activities here
Ong Dai Lin, Today Online 19 May 10;
SINGAPORE - For years, life science researchers here have been predominantly using imported research animals for their laboratory work. Soon, a national breeding facility to provide a steady supply of animals for research will aid their work, MediaCorp has learnt.
InVivos, a company established in 2008 by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's Biomedical Sciences Institutes to set up an animal breeding facility to support research activities, has teamed up with American company Taconic to develop the project.
Taconic is one of the largest laboratory rodent providers in the world.
The facility, which is expected to be completed by the end of next year, will produce 300,000 rodents annually when it starts operations. It aims to produce about 600,000 rodents (80 per cent mice and 20 per cent rats) per year at full capacity. It will then employ 50 to 60 people.
It will be built on land designated for agri-biotechnological use in Lim Chu Kang, adjacent to the current NUS' Centre for Animal Resources, a smaller rodent breeding facility.
Taconic senior vice-president of client relations Kevin Leak said of the partnership: "It's testimony to our position of leadership in mouse and rat genetics, as well as our half century of expertise in breeding and worldwide delivery, that we've been selected as trainers, consultants and suppliers to InVivos."
About 30,000 small mammals such as hamsters, rats and guinea pigs were imported last year as pets and also for research, according to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.
Researchers told MediaCorp the new facility should be helpful in their work.
Dr Patrick Casey, senior vice-dean of research at Duke-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School, said it is "critical to have a consistent and reliant supply of animals in research".
"We import many animals from Australia, and they're expensive and take quite a while to get here ... Now the costs can be lower and it will be faster to get the animals," he said.
While animals are usually used in laboratory work when there are no other research options, a centralised breeding facility is not uncommon overseas. In India, a National Centre for Laboratory Animal Sciences was set up with the aim of producing quality laboratory animals such as guinea pigs for research.
In Taiwan, a National Laboratory Animal Centre was set up in 1994 to supply rodents for research.
The US' National Institutes of Health's National Centre for Research Resources has bred government-owned chimpanzees for research since 1995. The programme was stopped in 2007 for financial reasons.
Uniquely Singapore lab mice and micro-pigs
Goh Chin Lian Straits Times 23 May 10;
They are the made-in-Singapore 'guinea pigs'. Miniature pigs 10 times smaller than a normal pig will soon be bred here for scientific research.
PWG Genetics, a biomedical research company with its headquarters in South Korea, plans to breed about 200 of these pigs from this year at its new facility in Tuas.
Over at Lim Chu Kang, a facility will be built to produce up to 600,000 mice and rats annually.
The project belongs to InVivos, a company set up by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) and the National University of Singapore (NUS). The facilities aim to meet the demand for animals as Singapore pushes for biomedical sciences to be a pillar of growth. The animals are used to test drugs, vaccines and surgical methods.
Singapore is home to 25 facilities licensed by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) for animal research. They include laboratories run by A*Star, NUS, health-care group SingHealth and companies like PWG.
While NUS and A*Star run their own facilities to breed rodents, researchers still need to import more of these and other animals like monkeys and pigs.
About 30,000 small mammals such as mice and rabbits were imported last year for research and as pets, the AVA said.
The demand here for miniature pigs alone is about 1,000 a year, a PWG spokesman said. Normal pigs, which grow to weigh more than 100kg within a year, are difficult to handle. If used for drug tests, they will need huge dosages, which can be expensive.
Miniature pigs from Europe and the United States used by researchers are usually half the size. PWG said its pigs are smaller. One type weighs 10kg to 15kg, at one year old to 15 months old. These animals, called micro-pigs, originate from crosses of pot-bellied Vietnamese pigs, pygmy pigs and a range of other pig types.
PWG said it has been importing micro-pigs from South Korea for researchers at the Defence Science Organisation, National University Hospital and National Dental Centre. Breeding them here will ensure they are readily available and reduce their exposure to diseases, which is a risk if they were to be shipped from overseas, the spokesman said.
InVivos' facility, expected to be built by the end of next year, will breed mice and rats under clean-room conditions. The 3,000 sq m facility will be built at Perahu Road, next to a smaller breeding facility run by NUS. InVivos will eventually combine both facilities.
A*Star's current breeding facility at Biopolis in Buona Vista will cease operations once InVivos' facilities become fully operational.
Guidelines on the humane treatment of animals in research were drawn up by the National Advisory Committee for Laboratory Animal Research (Naclar) in 2003.
Naclar's chairman, Professor Bernard Tan, said the use of animals for research rests on three principles. They are: replacing the use of animals with other means whenever possible; using as few as necessary; and doing one's best to ensure they do not suffer.
ANIMALS FOR TESTS
Mice and rats
Used in cancer, genetic and stem cell research. InVivos will build a facility in Lim Chu Kang by the end of next year with the capacity to breed 600,000 mice and rats a year.
Used to test drugs and medical devices, such as artificial knee joints and dental implants. PWG Genetics will breed 200 micro-pigs in its Tuas facility from this year.
Used in vaccine, Alzheimer's studies and research on healing processes. Researchers began using long-tailed macaques on a larger scale three years ago. The animals come from Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia. SingHealth Experimental Medicine Centre maintains a macaque colony here. Singapore-based company Maccine has a subsidiary which runs a breeding facility on Bintan, Indonesia.
Rats! Singapore to get a steady supply