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.