Company History

From Garage to Global Biosciences Leader: Over six decades of innovative, high quality mouse and rat laboratory research models

At its core, Taconic Biosciences is a family business that’s succeeded for over sixty years by staying true to the values it was founded with - integrity, quality, commitment to both employees and customers, and ethical animal care and use. From its humble beginnings in Robert K. Phelan’s garage in 1949, Taconic has grown into a global biosciences corporation with over 1,300 clients in nearly 50 nations. 

Over the years Taconic:

  • Pioneered the commercialization of germ-free mice (initiating the project back in 1961), and is still the only proven commercial source
  • Was the first commercial breeder to receive full accreditation from the American Association for the Accreditation of Laboratory Animals (AAALAC)
  • Spearheaded the establishment of the Global Alliance for Laboratory Animals Standardization (GALAS).
  • Set the standard for industry quality with its International Health Monitoring System, an enduring health quality program for mice and rats. Along the way we grew from a single facility in upstate New York with six employees, to a network of facilities and lab sites in the U.S. and Europe, employing over 800 people.

Taconic and the Phelan family are proud of their long history serving the research community, and invite you to see how we’ve grown:

  Robert K. Phelan Sally Phelan
  Robert K. Phelan Sally Phelan


germantown garage
1949 Robert K. Phelan founds the predecessor company to Taconic in his 18 x 24 ft. garage in Canajoharie, NY. Before the end of the year, he’s shipping 1,000 mice per week. Mice are raised in wooden boxes with wire mesh covers.

Research Animal Farms logo


1952 Robert Phelan purchases farm land in Germantown, NY, and begins Taconic Farms’ operations in one building with six employees. By the end of the year, average weekly sales are 9,000 mice per week.

1954 Program to add air conditioners to production facilities is initiated.

1955 Robert Phelan dies unexpectedly, leaving ownership of Taconic to his wife, Sally Phelan, and their three sons, Joseph, Richard, and Samuel. The brothers remained involved in Taconic as executives into the 2000s and on the Board of Directors until 2015.

1956 Initiates development of operations to provide pathogen-free mice.

1958 Blow-molded polyethylene trays replace wooden cages and rolling metal racks replace wooden racks.

1959 Average sales are around 14,000 mice per week.


1960 Herman Brant and Paul Quimby of Taconic learn how to raise germ-free mice and rats at the Lobund Institute at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Staff grows to 13 full time and 6 part time employees.

1961 Taconic begins paying health benefits for its employees.

1962 Average sales are around 16,000 mice per week

1963 Awarded a contract to produce BDF1 mice for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the first contract with a federal government agency

1969 Taconic begins offering rats including the Sprague Dawley® rat, which rapidly becomes a staple in research labs worldwide and is still widely used today.
Taconic is the first breeder to receive full accreditation from the American Association for the accreditation of Laboratory Animals (AAALAC). Staff grows to 22 full time and five part time employees.
Joseph Phelan joins Taconic  


1970 Taconic is awarded the contract to supply the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with Sprague Dawley rats. The contract with NCI to produce BDF1 mice is renewed for the eighth consecutive year.

1973 Builds state-of-the-art animal facility with clean/dirty corridor design - decreasing positive pressure (clean to dirty) - circular cage washers, and double door autoclaves.
Richard Phelan Joins Taconic

1975 Begins offering SHR hypertensive rat, followed soon by the control strain, WKY.
Debuts the Transit Kit, providing sterile water to animals while in transit, thus eliminating the need for potatoes.
Introduces rolling aluminum racks with suspended cages and S/E automatic watering. Temperature alarms are installed in all production rooms. Begins offering surgical procedures.

1977 First commercial breeder to provide NIH Swiss Nude mice.


1980 Taconic develops the first Isolated Barrier Unit (IBU) system, an improved method of housing rodents in a murine pathogen-free (MPF) environment.

1981 Samuel Phelan joins Taconic as Director of Marketing

1982 Adds Fischer 344 rats and asthmatic rats from Merck-Frost, Montreal, to the product offerings.

NASA advertisement
1985 Awarded contract from the National Institute of Environmental Health Science to raise various strains of inbred/hybrid mice and rats.
Awarded contract to supply MPF and germ-free mice and rats for the NASA Space Science shuttle missions.
Starts producing BALB/c mice.
All Taconic animal colonies are free of rodent viruses.

1986 The Quimby Gnotobiotic Center is dedicated.

1987 New Surgery Suite opened in the #3 Building.

1989 NIH renews contract with Taconic for 17th consecutive year.
Taconic opens an on-site day care center.
Staff grows to 130 employees.


1991 Becomes the first commercial provider of the C.B-17 SCID mouse model.

1994 Awarded National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) contract to maintain a repository for inbred, congenic, and transgenic mice.

1995 Taconic sets the standard for rodent shipping with the introduction of the Taconic Transit Cage™ (TTC™), designed and constructed to ensure the safety and security of animals during transit, including protection from murine viruses.
Becomes the first fully licensed producer of transgenic and knockout rodent models through the purchase of licenses to patented technologies from Genpharm.

1996 Taconic staff grows to 220 employees.

1998 Taconic Transgenic Exchange is established to provide researchers with ready access to small animal models.

1999 Taconic is instrumental in the establishment of the Global Alliance for Laboratory Animals Standardization (GALAS).


Over the decade, Taconic introduces a number of significant products:
  • Humanized HLA mice
  • Inducible Type II diabetes mice and rats
  • A new generation of immunodeficient mice
  • Inducible and reversible RNAi technology
  • A portfolio of ADME products

2000 Awarded Mutant Mouse Regional Resource Center (MMRRC) grant for derivations, cryopreservation, and animal housing.

2001 Opens production facility in Oxnard, CA.
Acquires Anmed Laboratories and enters the health testing marketing

2002 Purchases M&B Breeding in Denmark and begins European operations.

2003 Molecular Analysis Department expands throughput to 5,000 extractions per week.
Samuel Phelan appointed President of Taconic. Joe Phelan elected as Chairman of the Board.

2004 Implements the International Health Monitoring System (IHMS) for rodents.
Board approves funds for the construction of Taconic’s Cambridge City, Indiana facility.

2005 Corporate offices move to Hudson City Center. Joseph and Richard Phelan retire from Operations and continue to serve on the Board of Directors.
Expands by a few thousand, the number of models offered through agreements with Lexicon.
Increases access to techniques enabling custom model generation through agreements with Artemis Pharmaceuticals

2006 The third generation of Phelan family members serve on Board Committees.
Enters agreement with Transnetyx.
Cambridge City and Albany sites receive AAALAC accreditation.

2007 Purchases 80% of Artemis Pharmaceuticals in Cologne, Germany to become a global leader in custom generation of genetically modified research models.
Acquires rights to ASKA technology for kinase-related drug discovery.
Todd Little becomes the first non-Phelan family member to be President of Taconic.

2009 Purchases Xenogen Biosciences to expand its microbiology and custom models generation capabilities.


2010 Company reorganizes to meet changing global needs for custom, genetically engineered mouse and rat models.

2012 Taconic commercializes its custom model generation and breeding integrated services offering, the only firm to offer both services as a package within one firm.

2014 Robert Rosenthal joins Taconic as Chief Executive Officer, replacing Samuel Phelan who focuses his efforts solely on Chairman of the Board activities for Taconic.
Taconic’s legal name is officially changed from "Taconic Farms" to Taconic Biosciences globally in September, while continuing to do business as Taconic.