© 2014 INFRAFRONTIER.GR Project Management

Feasibility Study

A feasibility study funded by the General Secretariat of Research and Technology was prepared in May 2010. The objectives of this study were:
 
  • To describe existing capacities in Greece
  • To map the needs of the research and business community
  • To estimate the cost and physical assets required to build the Infrastructure

Data collection for the study was done by circulating three specialized web-based questionnaires designed for:

 

  • Greek mouse facilities

  • Greek researchers

  • Greek companies

 

Over 100 completed questionnaires were received from the sources depicted in the schematic below.

 

 

Objectives

 

A feasibility study funded by the General Secretariat of Research and Technology was prepared in May 2010. The objectives of this study were:

  • To describe existing capacities in Greece

  • To map the needs of the research and business community

  • To estimate the cost and physical assets required to build the Infrastructure

 

Data collection for the study was done by circulating three specialized web-based questionnaires designed for:

  • Greek mouse facilities

  • Greek researchers

  • Greek companies

 

Over 100 completed questionnaires were received from the sources depicted in the adjacent schematic.The findings of the study are presented briefly below.

More information can be found at www.fleming.gr/infrafrontier-GR/

 

Existing mouse facilities

 

Analysis of the questionnaire responses from Greek mouse facilities suggests that there are two different types of facilities: those that are mainly set up to assist the research needs of scientists in a specific university/hospital lab or research institute and those that evolved from the first category and have currently sufficient infrastructure and expertise to be able to provide services to the wider research community (whether research groups in research centers and academia or companies). Facilities from universities and hospitals fall mainly in the first category while there are mainly four research centers that make up the second.

 

Amongst the four facilities providing services to users from outside their own organization, Pasteur and Fleming are very close to their current maximum capacity while IMBB and BRFAA have spare capacity to host additional phenotyping services. However, Fleming is the only institution with both cryopreservation and re-derivation capabilities and is the institution that provides services to more foreign research groups and companies than Greek. Fleming has recently become the Greek EMMA node (the archiving/dissemination arm of the European infrastructure INFRAFRONTIER-EU). Furthermore, Fleming’s expertise in immunology makes it a strong candidate to become an immunology mouse clinic (disease specific phenotyping facility).

 

 

Infrafrontier-GR aims to build and operate a state-of-the-art mouse clinic that will include animal housing and phenotyping facilities based on cutting edge technological platforms. The Infrastructure will provide easy access to mouse models and facilitate their dissemination within the Greek research community and abroad. Furthermore, it will provide expert secondary phenotyping services initially in the field of immunology, as well as in other disease areas and is expected to boost Greek research productivity and innovation potential.

 

Services in secondary phenotyping will be specialized and disease-specific in areas where Greek researchers have top level expertise, and are expected to accelerate the drug discovery and innovation to the benefit of the research community as well as the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. Mouse clinic units will include:

  • Genomics (gene expression profiling and high throughput technologies, including array-based approaches (e.g. Affymetrix) and next-generation deep sequencing platforms (e.g. Illumina)

  • Proteomics (mass-spectrometry platforms allowing whole proteome identification)

  • Imaging (live cell and whole animal imaging capabilities, including Optical Projection Tomography, Positron Emission Tomography (PET-CT))

  • Bioinformatics (units specializing in the comprehensive analysis of large experimental data sets)

  • Histopathology (unit which performs standardized histological assays, pathological evaluation and documentation)

  • Cytochemistry (units capable of performing flow cytometry-based analysis in large number of samples)

  • Biochemistry and Toxicology (units suitable to measure wide range of metabolites in biological fluids including blood, urine and tissue extracts)

  • Pharmacokinetics (units capable of following the metabolic fates of experimental drugs in mice

  • Evaluation of pharmaceuticals

 

Furthermore the Infrastructure will be providing state-of-the art archiving and distribution services in accordance with the protocols and standards of the European Mutant Mouse Archive (EMMA), of which Fleming is already a Member. The network will also provide Training on high end technological platforms, as well as expert Support Services in experimental design related to mouse modeling and phenotyping, as well as in relevant Technology Transfer and Intellectual property issues.

 

 

Use of mice in Greek research

 

There are 7 research centers that host biology and biotechnology related institutes. They host slightly more than 150 research groups and according to the data received by the mouse facilities 54% of those research groups work with mice. Furthermore, 7 major universities host medical schools, pharmacology and biology departments and a rough estimate is that they host 700 - 800 researchers. 90% of respondents from Research Centers (RC) and 60% of responders from Universities declared that they use mice in their research (total 98 responses).

 

Amongst those that don’t use mice most respondents would like to use them in the future (93% of University researchers and 96% from RCs). The main reason why University researchers don’t use mice is lack of infrastructures (72,4%) while the main reason for research center researchers is the prohibiting cost (50%).

 

There are however restrictions on the number of mice used per researcher in 96% of the cases. 90% of all respondents consider that the usage numbers should be increased and 86,4% of them consider that a central archiving unit would be very useful. More than half of the researchers (59% Universities, and 54% RCs) estimate that the use of such a facility would reduce their cost by 30% on average.

 

The types of mouse models used in Greek research by disease area are depicted in the graph below.

Researcher needs assessment

 

Access to a central archiving facility seems very useful to most researchers (75% from Universities and 80% from RCs). Access to Phenotyping Services is useful or very useful in 74% of university respondents and 68,8% of RC respondents.

 

The graph below summarizes the techniques and services that researchers would like to have access to.

Overall there is a high demand for Infrafrontier-GR services both from University and from Research center researchers.

 

Business needs assessment

 

Most Greek Pharmaceutical companies are simply commercial marketing operations and do not undertake research and development (R&D) activity. At the moment very few are involved in drug discovery where the study of animal models of human disease is an instrumental tool. Among the 9 companies that answered the questionnaire:

 

  • Only 1/3 use mice in their work

  • From those that don’t use mice, 2/3 would like to

  • Only one company has an internal mouse facility but it can only facilitate some of its own needs since it occupies only 95 m2 and can keep up to 400 mice

 

There is a general consensus among companies relating to what they would want out of a mouse related research infrastructure with both archiving and phenotyping capabilities: they would like to have access to transgenic mouse creation services, imaging techniques, histopathology and proteomics services.

 

The companies that don’t use mice, would like to have access to a variety of mouse models (75% would like to use random and chemical mutagenesis mice) as well as wild type mice to perform mainly toxicity and efficacy studies on disease areas such as cancer (75%), cardiological and metabolic diseases (50%). They estimate their mouse model needs to range from 10 to 100 per year and would be willing to spend from 100.000 to 800.000€ on this activity.

 

Cost analysis

The infrastructure will operate in three phases:

 

  • The first one will be the construction phase where all services will be provided using the existing facilities of the partners. During this phase the construction of the new, expanded mouse facility at Fleming will take place and the infrastructure will operate with minimum new personnel.
  • The interim phase will last approximately one year and it is the year that the new building will be equipped and the new personnel hired. An average number of personnel slightly higher than half of the total on the full operation phase will be required during this phase.
  • The operation phase where the infrastructure will operate at full capacity.

 

The cost of setting up the infrastructure calculated in the Feasibility study amounts to €7,3 Million for new equipment and €2 Million for building construction, while the annual operating cost of the facility will be € 1,1 Million after full operation. This cost can be minimized by providing services to the business community for a full cost fee.

 

Conclusions

 

The following conclusions have been reached through the analysis performed in the Feasibility study:

 

Expertise and state-of-the-art technological know-how, does exist in Greece, but is at the moment fragmented.

There is high demand for the services described both from researchers at universities, as well as those in research centers.

Access to facilities and large cost are the two main barriers to using animal models.

Biotech and pharmaceutical companies are willing to invest large amounts for the use of such technologies.

Estimated startup and running costs for such an infrastructure are not prohibiting, given the estimated benefits for research and innovation.

 

 

For more information, please contact:

Prof. George Kollias, BSRC Fleming , 34 Fleming Street, 16672 Vari-Athens, Greece

Tel . +30 210 9656507, Fax. + 30 210 9653934, Email g.kollias@fleming.gr