Category Archives: Issue 14 September 19

A new innovation

From start to finish…



Datesand are proud to announce the release of our latest product, the Rat Scratcher.

The Rat scratcher is the most current winner of the Janet Wood Innovation Award after storming to first place in February of 2019. Since then, a lot of development and manufacturing has taken place to get this fantastic new product into production and out onto the market.

This particular product was designed by Sarah Taylor of Cambridge University. Sarah currently works with rats, mice, rhesus macaques and occasionally rabbits and guinea pigs, but after some inspiration while working with rats, she had the spark that created her winning idea.

As the name suggests, this is made for rats. In particular, it was designed for singly housed rats to allow them to groom themselves. It aims to help reduce stress and encourage natural behaviour while improving welfare. The product attaches to the top or side of the cage with an easy clip-on design so rats can rub against it. It is made out of an easy to clean autoclavable plastic.


We asked Sarah a few questions to get a better idea of how and why she came up with her winning idea…

How long have you been in the industry? 

“3 years.”


What is the purpose of the product you designed?


“To allow rats to scratch themselves where they can’t reach or if they are singly housed and don’t have a companion to groom them. It’s mainly to encourage scratching/grooming behaviour to improve welfare and reduce stress therefore promoting Refinement.” 


Where did the idea for your product originate from?


“I have been grooming our rats with a brush and then looked into brushes for animals and came across the cow brush which gave me the idea to design something to go into their cage.”

How does the product promote one or more of the 3Rs?

“By allowing the rats to have the opportunity to scratch against something therefore reducing stress and improving welfare.”


What would you say are the 3 main things to consider when designing a BRAND-NEW product?

“A: Size

B: Cleanable & autoclavable

C: Can be used in multiple institutions” 

Did you face any challenges when designing your product? If so, how did you overcome them?


“How to attach it to the cage – I consulted with some colleagues and a datesand rep to adapt my idea.”


What is the purpose of the product you designed? 

“To allow rats to scratch themselves where they can’t reach or if they are singly housed and don’t have a companion to groom them. It’s mainly to encourage scratching/grooming behaviour to improve welfare and reduce stress therefore promoting Refinement.” 

What would you say to someone looking to submit a product to the Janet Wood Innovation Award in the future? 

“Discuss the idea with line manager and your datesand rep to make sure the idea is feasible. Also, do some research into the natural behaviours of the animal that you are designing the product for and think about how the animal will benefit from the product.”


The Rat Scratcher is now available to order! You can find out more information and request a free sample on the Datesand website.

Don’t forget, there’s still plenty of time to enter into the Janet Wood Innovation Award 2020! Simply download an application pack to get started and submit by February 1st 2020!

Rat Scratcher Rat-Scratcher

Where could the Janet Wood Innovation Award take you?

For winning the Janet Wood Innovation Award, Datesand has promised the winner a trip to any Life Sciences conference of their choice, anywhere in the world!

After winning the Award in 2018 with the highly popular Nombrero, Vanessa Jenkins chose to take a trip to Perth for the 2019 ANZLAA conference. Datesand covered all expenses for this trip, including flights, conference tickets and accommodation.



We are delighted to report that she had a wonderful time!

You can hear all about the adventure from Vanessa herself below…

“I had the most fantastic time at the ANZLAA 2019 conference in Perth. Having recently experienced compassion fatigue in my current role, this conference was exactly what I needed. I’m very thankful for this opportunity and can’t wait to get started on some new projects. 



I’ve met some amazing people doing inspiring work, such as training rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis. Not only that, it was fascinating to have other technicians and scientists across the world know the product I invented and speak highly of it. I also can’t fail to mention the amazing food and wine I’ve had the past couple days – especially at the main conference dinner at the Sandalford Winery!  


I’ve also been offered the opportunity to visit some more animal facilities and go fruit bat watching with my newly adopted Australian family from Tecniplast. 

Thank you so much Datesand for this once in a lifetime opportunity!!!!”

You can download an application pack now to start your journey.

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Datesand’s Australian distributor, Allied Scientific, also attended the 2019 ANZLAA conference. In conjunction with Vanessa’s trip, they had some Nombreros, along with a host of other Datesand products, to show off and allow visitors to ask the designer herself all they needed to know about the product.   

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Hannah gets hands-on

One thing we pride ourselves on at Datesand is our ability to come together as a team and get the job done. Each person contributes to the business in their own unique way to ensure that the work we do is successful.

Everyone is always working hard at what they do best but sometimes, it’s understanding what others do and how other parts of the business work that really makes the team come together. We always try to get all staff members involved in the different aspects of the company. Not only does it increase personal knowledge and skills, but it also improves the efficiency of the entire team.

Hannah joined us back in April as the newest member of the Customer Support Team. She helps to keep things afloat and contributes greatly to keeping our beloved customers happy at every step of their journey.


Despite this, we have recently had Hannah doing some training on the NestPak machine. By doing this, she can get a more hands-on approach when it comes to the production side of the business, meaning she is able to improve her understanding of the whole process from production to customer!


Common cold stopped by experimental approach

By James Gallagher – BBC



Scientists think they have found a way to stop the common cold and closely related viruses which can cause paralysis.

Instead of trying to attack them directly, the researchers targeted an essential protein inside our cells which the viruses need to replicate.

The approach gave “complete protection” in experiments on mice and human lung cells.

However, the US-based researchers are not ready for trials in people. 

The common-cold challenge

Tackling the common cold has been a massive problem in medicine.

Most colds are caused by rhinoviruses, but there are around 160 different types and they mutate so easily they rapidly become resistant to drugs, or learn to hide from the immune system.

This has led to the idea of “host-directed therapy” – essentially making our bodies inhospitable for the cold viruses.

An individual virus does not have everything it needs to replicate. Instead, it is dependent on infecting another cell and stealing some of the parts inside.

It is why scientists still argue whether viruses are truly alive.

A team at Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco, found one of the components which the viruses were dependent upon.

Viral dependency

Scientists started with human cells and then used gene-editing to turn off instructions inside our DNA one-by-one. These modified cells were then exposed to a range of enteroviruses – this includes the rhinoviruses which cause the common cold, and more dangerous viruses that are closely related to polio and can cause paralysis.

All the viruses were unable to replicate inside cells which had the instructions for a protein (called methyltransferase SETD3) switched off.

The scientists then created genetically modified mice which were completely unable to produce that protein.

“Lacking that gene protected the mice completely from viral infection,” associate professor Jan Carette, from Stanford, told the BBC.

“These mice would always die [without the mutation], but they survived and we saw a very strong reduction in viral replication and very strong protection.”


The protein these viruses were dependent upon normally has a role in the intricate “scaffolding” which organises the inside of the body’s cells, called the cytoskeleton.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Microbiology, showed the genetically modified mice were healthy, despite lacking the protein for their whole lives.

When do we get a cure?

The plan is not to produce genetically modified humans, but to find a drug which can temporarily suppress the protein, and provide protection.

“We have identified a fantastic target that all enteroviruses and rhinoviruses require and depend on. Take that away and the virus really has no chance,” said Prof Carette.

He added: “This is a really good first step – the second step is to have a chemical that mimics this genetic deletion.

“I think development can go relatively quickly.”

Exactly what role the protein plays in the viral replication is still uncertain, and will require further research.

For most people, the common cold is more of an inconvenience than a threat to their health, but in asthmatics, it can make their symptoms much worse and some of the enteroviruses can cause paralysis if they spread to the brain.

Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham, who was not involved in the work, said the study was “neat” but scientists would need to be certain the approach was safe.

“There is increasing interest in developing treatments that target these host proteins, because it can potentially overcome virus mutation – one of the major barriers to developing effective broadly active antivirals.

“But of course, viruses are very adaptable and it is conceivable that even a host-targeting treatment might not keep them at bay for long.”

Bringing branches together

On Tuesday 19th September, IAT BING representatives from across the UK and Ireland met at The Farmers Club, London for their annual meeting. Nathan Hill (Allentown) and Kally Booth (Dundee University) IAT Council members attended the meeting chaired by Ryan Hill (Datesand/NEE Branch Bing Representative) and minuted by Rhys Perry (Exeter University/Wales and the West Branch Bing Representative). 

The meeting brings together people from the industry who share similar values and progressive thinking. The goal is to share actions and ideas that will ultimately have a beneficial impact to the IAT and industry as a whole. Over the years, the BING group have come up with countless contributions on the IAT such as the IAT/Congress app, money-raising ideas for AS-ET, the IAT Hub stand/chill-out area and various bulletin/online competitions. 

One of our biggest achievements comes from our own Rhys Perry who, following his first meeting to BING last year, has created an entirely new branch “The Wales & The West Branch”, bringing together Cardiff, Bristol, Bath and Exeter! The branch has already had a number of successful events thanks to Rhys and his branch colleagues hard work. 


The group is warm and welcoming, all ideas are taken into consideration and allowed to blossom. They are a positive and innovative team connecting people and other establishments together who encourage and motivate each other.  As the team continues to develop, it is becoming more structured, allowing ideas to be put into action. 

Without giving too much away, the next action plan will be to provide more content for the bulletin and another year in assisting in fundraising for AS-ET – more to come on this in due course! 

In addition, the group assist each other in making each branch more successful, sharing event ideas, research intelligence and feedback. 

Once the meeting concluded, everyone retreats to a local pub for a catch-up. The BING representatives organized to meet with other London colleagues from London establishments such as UCL and Kings College London this time around, making the most of their valuable time by networking with fellow technologists.