Animal Breeding and Husbandry

Taconic Biosciences' Colony Management Solutions uniquely combines flexible housing options with cross-functional expertise to create a custom breeding program for each customer.
We fully understand that every breeding project is different, with each one requiring different housing settings and husbandry methods.

At the beginning of your colony management project, our Scientific Program Managers and Project Managers will work with you to decide which type of venue(s) will be most suited for your needs throughout all stages of the project.

For the customer, this translates into breeding plans that achieve the desired balance of speed, price, and quality throughout the duration of the project.

Animal Model Housing

Animal HousingTaconic's colony management system includes some of the most robust controls for regulating both the micro- and macroenvironmental factors of any animal model vendor. This ensures consistent breeding performance of any strain at any health standard. Both isolator and barrier systems are available for breeding projects, and dedicated project managers can decide where each project is housed to precisely match the housing venue to the specific needs of each project. All elements of a project are considered when choosing a housing option, including health status, colony size, time to start-up, expansion time, and cost.

Taconic maintains the most options for health standards among all vendors, with key commercial models such as the C57BL/6NTac offered at multiple health standards, including Germ Free for microbiome studies.

Microenvironmental Factors

Each animal's individual cage is controlled to protect their health, reduce stress, and support maximum breeding performance.

Bedding and Enrichment
Appropriate bedding for a model's strain, sex, and phenotype supports health and daily activity. All mice and rats are housed in solid-bottom cages and group-housed unless single housing is required (e.g., aggression).

The primary goal of introducing environmental enrichment is to increase animal well-being by providing sensory and motor stimulation through structures and resources that allow the animals to express species-typical behaviors. These behaviors promote psychological well-being through exercise, productive activities, and cognitive challenges that correspond to species-specific characteristics.

Special Housing Requirements
Depending on the phenotype and desired health standard, a model may have more complex housing requirements. Single housing may be required for pregnant animals, lines with aggressive behaviors, or retired male breeders.

Macroenvironmental Factors

The environment beyond each individual cage is equally important to breeding performance. Our facilities are carefully controlled to provide each colony with the ideal macroenvironmental conditions for animal welfare. Temperature and humidity of the breeding facility can affect stress levels, health, and performance, especially for certain genetically engineered strains. External noises and vibrations are minimized while artificial light and dark cycles are employed to maintain the natural cycle of all animals.

Taconic has several options for breeding your genetically engineered models. All of our animal housing operations are accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC) and monitored by both site-specific and the global Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC) demonstrating Taconic's adherence to strict guidelines for the care and use of animals.

Barrier Housing

Barriers follow a bioexclusion model of biosecurity such that all animals and materials must meet well-defined microbiological criteria prior to entry into the barrier. All animals entering a barrier must first pass through a rederivation or gnotobiotic quarantine procedure in order to meet the health standard of the receiving barrier. Alternatively, animals already housed in a barrier may move to another barrier of equal or lower health standard after evaluation by Taconic's Veterinary Sciences department.

Benefits:
  • Most appropriate for large-scale and/or long-term production breeding
  • Best option for breeding projects that are expected to fluctuate in size in response to the supported research program
  • Cost-effective option for longer-term biosecure housing needs as all health monitoring fees are included in the weekly cage price

Isolator Housing

Isolators follow a biocontainment model of biosecurity such that the health standard of the animals in the isolator is maintained at status quo relative to their initial arrival and population of the isolator. Post arrival, animals can be held at a health standard equivalent to Taconic's Murine Pathogen Free (MPF™), Restricted Flora (RF™), Excluded Flora (EF), Opportunist Free™ (OF™), Germ Free (GF), or customer-defined health designations.

Benefits:
  • Allows for direct importation of animals from outside sources without the need for rederivation; hence, breeding can begin shortly after arrival
  • Isolators are most appropriate for quick start-up and small-scale breeding to accelerate the delivery of study cohorts for initial screening and/or proof-of-principle type studies
  • Allows for the administration of custom diets

Isolator Breeding Solutions (IBS)

Isolator Breeding Solutions (IBS) is an AAALAC accredited operation located in Taconic's state-of-the art facility in Rensselaer, NY. Animals are housed in semi-rigid isolators capable of housing whole breeding colonies, and each is equipped with a dedicated filtered air supply. Once the health reports for your animals are approved, we can then import your colony directly into IBS and begin breeding immediately.

Benefits:
  • IBS is the ideal choice when speed to cohort is critical
  • Animals that meet minimal health criteria may be imported directly into the IBS Facility - no rederivation is required
  • One year of historical health monitoring results are required to gain approval for entry
  • Health monitoring may be customized to meet your needs and budget
  • eTACONIC® web-based interface provides real-time access to breeding, inventory data, and health reports
  • Flexibility for special services such as administration of custom diets, compound administration, and special monitoring

Isolated Barrier Units (IBUs)

Taconic's Isolated Barrier Units (IBU) are AAALAC accredited, independent vivaria. All animals entering an IBU must be offspring of a rederivation and have gone through gnotobiotic quarantine with comprehensive health monitoring or originate from a comparable Taconic IBU. The IBU is designed to prevent microbial cross-contamination between colonies via separation of barrier units.

Benefits:
  • Ideal choice for breeding colonies that are relatively large in size or anticipated for use over a longer period of time (e.g.,>1 year)
  • Animals carry Taconic's IHMS Murine Pathogen Free MPF™ health standard
  • All health monitoring services are included and health monitoring data may be accessed via eTACONIC® or our health reporting webpages

Health Monitoring

Taconic is the only laboratory animal provider with globally harmonized health standards. Our company employs the International Health Monitoring System (IHMS™) which is defined by a comprehensive list of microbiological agents, test frequencies, and test methods and meets or exceeds the Federation of European Laboratory Animal Science Associations (FELASA) guidelines. This multifaceted testing program screens for agents of highest concern using different methodologies to increase the likelihood of accurate and rapid detection. Additionally, all breeding services are supervised by board-certified veterinarians, enhancing Taconic's commitment to maintaining a comprehensive quality assurance program. Our Rapid and FRapid® expansion service will establish a customer's colony at any one or multiple health standards, depending on the application of the model and the requirements of the customer. In addition, our Model Generation ExpressMODEL® program integrates a rederivation into the model generation process, allowing new genetically engineered models (GEMs) coming from Model Generation to carry any one of the IHMS™ standards and move directly into a Taconic Isolated Barrier Unit (EF, OF, MPF™) or gnotobiotic isolator.

Breeding Services

Breeding Services Leveraging Taconic's unmatched model repositories, advanced custom model generation capabilities, and flexible breeding solutions, our project managers will craft a customized plan to produce, maintain, and deliver study-ready cohorts with unprecedented speed, flexibility, and transparency. We regularly manage specialized projects such as CRISPR founder breeding, transgenic founder breeding, and Cre/LoxP breeding.

To maintain the genetic integrity of all models, commercially-available inbred strains, as well as custom GEMs, are refreshed from cryopreserved stock at set intervals to prevent genetic drift.

Additional Services

We also recognize that breeding your genetically modified mice and rats is just the beginning of a successful research program. To maximize the value of the animals in your studies, we offer several additional services for easy integration into your Colony Management Solutions project.

Pre-Conditioning Services
Taconic is fully equipped to provide pre-conditioning solutions that include aging, custom diet administration, custom microbiomes, and surgical services to your study animals. Diets of varied nutritional content (e.g., high fat) or medication (e.g., doxycycline) are seamlessly imported into our facilities and administered to your animals, all under complete IACUC approvals.

Animal Identification Services
Animal identification is a vital element in any research project. Taconic offers dependable and humane solutions for animal identification, keeping your research moving further. We offer several methods for uniquely identifying animals, from proven methods such as tail tattoos and ear tags to state-of-the-art RFID transponders. Our portfolio of identification methods allows us to match the best method to the needs of your study.

Data Collection Services
The collection of in-life data during breeding and general husbandry can often reveal important phenotypes. These services allow you to access in-life data on your study animals while still housed at Taconic. Our technicians gather data on clinical observations such as body weight and provide the reports to the customer.

Specimen Collection Services
Save time and money by having Taconic collect and ship non-terminal and terminal specimens from your research animals. Our trained technicians can harvest samples and specimens (e.g., blood, tissues, etc.) from your animals and preserve them as appropriate to meet your downstream analysis.

Surgical Modification Services
Allow Taconic's highly trained surgical staff to execute surgical modifications on your animals prior to shipment, making the animals that much closer to "study ready" upon arrival at your facility. Surgical modification services offered in both mice and rats include soft tissue and stereotaxic surgery, and vascular, brain and metabolic catheter placements.

Backcrossing and Speed Congenics

Traditional Backcrossing

Taconic offers multiple services to transfer a desired genetic mutation from one genetic background to another genetic background. Traditional backcrossing is achieved by 10 successive backcrosses, which results in a new mouse model that is 99.9% identical to the recipient inbred strain.

Speed Congenics or Accelerated Backcrossing

Speed Congenics or Accelerated Backcrossing Read the Taconic White Paper: Speed Congenics or Accelerated Backcrossing
Traditional backcrossing is based on the principle of transferring a mutation from one strain to another; however, it is time-dependent on natural mating and could take up to three years. Speed congenics results in a faster enrichment of the recipient genetic background by backcrossing aided by genotyping and SNP testing.

As shown below, when comparing traditional backcrossing to speed congenics, the desired strain is achieved in less than half the time through the speed congenics process.