Datesand News

Movember 2018


November 1                                                                                             November 25

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Keeley goes to Manchester

My visit to see the animal units at Manchester university


manchester-tripThis was the first time since joining Datesand that I’d been able to look around a facility to see for myself how the animals are cared for and just how our bedding enrichment products are used to improve their health and well-being. Luckily, we had the Director Graham as our very knowledgeable guide. Graham told us they currently have around 85 projects running, looking into things from cancer research to global warming. We were able to see a lot of different animals and just how the bedding and enrichment we provide is used.

We were told about the care of the animals and how the team use the 3Rs to keep the animal testing to a minimum. As an example, for certain tests, microbes in a petri dish can be used as an alternative to live animals. Graham also explained that if they can re-home the animals after testing, they attempt to do so, or make sure that if animals have to be euthanised, the organs are used to help in other studies. He also mentioned that the unit’s older ewes nearing the end of their life are saved and that donated pacemakers are used to test their hearts.

We were taken to look at animals I’d expected to see, such as rats and mice and the growing population of zebrafish. We also saw other animals like the African striped mice currently used for optical tests and terrapins, born with a lack of oxygen, helping researchers see how people’s hearts fare at lower oxygen levels such as at high attitude. We heard of studies using microcultures to help people in the developing world with water supplies and how dogfish are helping in research into global warming and its effects on sea life. Graham also explained how researchers are testing to see how the body’s internal clock changes the way the body heals. This has implications for things like the lighting environment used when patients are being prepared for surgery.

It was very clear that the team go to a great deal of trouble to develop and maintain inventive and caring methods to help both animals and technicians. The units purify their own water into pouches to avoid repetitive strain injuries sometimes associated with cleaning bottles and use up to 40% less water into the bargain. The team had also noticed that when cleaning out the pigs, the animals rolled around in the run-off water. It seemed only right to provide them with a pool to swim and play around in. There’s even a project to exercise different birds to see how it affects the heart.

As someone who mainly processes the orders and looks first and foremost at accuracy, the right products, quantities and prices, it was really useful and interesting to see the animals themselves and to understand their needs and the environment they inhabit.  It also gave me a real understanding of the number of enrichment items used and amounts of bedding ordered in real terms as I saw for myself what’s needed to fill so many cages and what lasts them a week.

All aboard – for the West Middlesex IAT Thames cruise

boat-trip-1The enterprising IAT West Middlesex Branch organised a Thames boat trip event one Friday evening in late June – a fitting reward after everyone’s hard working week. Datesand sponsored this event and as the company’s national sales executive, I thought it only correct that I attend (to make sure everything went to plan of course!).

The boat departed on the dot at 6pm. On going aboard we received a free glass of champagne which was swiftly followed by the arrival of a number of jugs of Pimms. This beverage seemed entirely fitting for the leisurely cruise in the beautiful Summer weather.boat-trip-2 Attendees were from facilities across London – including Imperial, QMUL, Kings College London, CRUK and UCL. There were approximately 30 delegates including representatives of a number of suppliers. The industry job titles ranged from Facility Directors to Animal Techs which once again showed the real value of these social events. 

The evening was fantastic, the weather perfect and the alcohol extremely appropriate. This boat takes travellers to all the key tourist attractions such as Big Ben, the London Eye, the Shard and London Bridge. We returned on time to dock at 8pm after a highly successful event which everyone really enjoyed. Once back on terra firma we went to a pub in Kings Cross to compare notes on the evening – and for one last drink before calling it a night. 

Not golf as we know it – but loads of fun nevertheless


The highly sociable IAT London Branch staged a crazy golf event this year in late June. The enthusiastic delegates first met (surprise surprise!) at a handy pub just around the corner from the venue. Jujus Bar and Stage boasted a great beer garden just about perfect for this glorious weather. The Crazy golf started at 6:00pm at Junkyard golf club. Pre-match nerves were mixed with raw enthusiasm and the healthy spirit of competition. The event was kindly sponsored by Edstrom and Sychem. 

crazy-golf-2The intrepid crazy golfers included Robin and Connor P from UCL Prion, Alisa from UCL ICH, Gabi, Bridgette, Louise and Mira from UCL Central, Marc from UCL Ophthalmology, Ben from Kings College, Katie B, Zoe W, Michaela L, Kul K, James from Edstrom, Micrazy-golf-3ke from Sychem, Patrick from Allentown, Simon from Tecniplast and last but not least, myself from Datesand.

All attendees took it in turns to make their way round the extremely wacky course. We played through seven different obstacles (see photos) before finally returning to reception. Those not too exhausted by the sporting endeavour stayed on and returned to Jujus bar for some well-earned refreshment. A great evening was enjoyed by all.


The business of Bio and Health Sciences


The UK has one of the strongest and most productive Life Sciences sectors in the world, attracting the most inward investment in Europe which supports 240,000 UK jobs and generates a turnover of around £70 billion per year.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

biospectrumThe UK Government, last week, hosted the second in a series of roundtables with stakeholders from key life science businesses, demonstrating the importance of the sector to the UK economy.

The Chancellor, International Trade Secretary, Business Secretary and Health and Social Care Secretary were amongst those that met with senior representatives from leading UK and international life sciences companies as the UK positions itself as the global home of health innovation, welcoming overseas investment and seeking to boost exports in the process.

Discussions at the roundtable focused on:

  how the future of the Life Sciences sector will be supported by the delivery of our modern Industrial Strategy

• ensuring that the UK is ‘open for business’ with a positive business environment

  our ambitions
for a comprehensive agreement with the EU on our future relationship

  the development and implementation of our independent trade policy

To date, the government has engaged significantly with the sector, including the launch of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and Sector Deal, the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers’ Davos meeting with global Life Sciences executives and the inaugural meeting of the Life Sciences Council at 10 Downing Street in May.

The UK remains the number one destination for life sciences inward investment in Europe, ranks number two globally behind the US, and has also grown a thriving domestic industry with more than 5,600 companies and some of the strongest R&D capability in Europe.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “From the discovery of DNA to the 100,000 genomes project, the UK has always been at the forefront of ground-breaking research and development with the potential to transform the lives of millions of people. The life sciences sector is incredibly important to the UK, not only for the hundreds of thousands of people employed and its £70bn turnover, but also so NHS patients continue to have access to pioneering new treatments as part of our long term plan for the NHS.”

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Partnerships between government and industry are essential in helping us work towards our common goal of ensuring the UK continues to be a global leader in life sciences. That is why government has placed health and life sciences at the centre of our modern Industrial Strategy. Through the Life Sciences Sector Deal and our Grand Challenge missions in AI and Ageing Society, we have committed to working together with industry and overseas investors, to ensure that the UK remains the go-to destination for launching new businesses, new discoveries and new techniques to a wider market.”

The UK has one of the strongest and most productive Life Sciences sectors in the world, attracting the most inward investment in Europe which supports 240,000 UK jobs and generates a turnover of around £70 billion per year. 

Alongside this, the attractiveness of the UK markets is demonstrated by the fact that all of the top 25 global pharmaceutical companies, and the top 30 global medical technology companies, operate in the UK, utilising a world-renowned bank of R&D knowledge.

A recent example of the ground-breaking work being done in the UK by the sector is the 100,000 Genomes Project which has revolutionised the way genetics data is held and used. The project has led to the UK becoming the only nation in the world to have a large scale whole genome dataset which will lead to new genomic discovery, advancements in precision medicine and healthcare globally.


£2 million Wolfson Foundation award

The Wolfson Foundation has awarded £2 million to UCL to help create a world-leading neuroscience centre that will tackle dementia from every angle.

UCL 18 July 2018 

wolfson-awardThe state of the art new building will house UCL’s renowned Institute of Neurology, and will also be home to the research hub and national headquarters of the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI) – a nationwide collaboration to revolutionise the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and vascular dementia.

UCL was announced as the hub of the UK DRI in December 2016 in recognition of its world-class research. The university is home to one of the world’s largest, most productive and highest impact neuroscience centres, leading the drive to understand what causes dementia, how it develops and how it could be slowed or stopped.

The highly collaborative new neuroscience centre being created on the site of the Eastman Dental Hospital, on Grays Inn Road, will be the bedrock of the UK’s dementia effort, bringing together academia, industry, the NHS, funders and patient organisations to break down barriers and find better ways to diagnose and treat people with devastating neurological disorders.

Welcoming the award, Professor Michael Hanna, Director of the UCL Institute of Neurology, says: “Dementia is set to affect half the UK’s population. It severely affects the lives of individuals and their families and is a huge and growing burden on health and social services. Halting it is an urgent need and having facilities that prioritise collaboration and bring researchers, clinicians and patients together is vital. Preventative treatments for dementia are in our sights, and it is visionary funders like the Wolfson Foundation that are driving progress.”

Professor Alan Thompson, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences, adds: “There is no neuroscience community comparable to UCL’s and nowhere else in the world is more likely to make the decisive intervention against dementia that we need. The facilities for this work really matter and having this dedicated, multidisciplinary, collaborative space will greatly accelerate the speed of dementia discovery and translation.”

UCL is also home to the Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre, founded thanks to a £20 million award from the Wolfson Foundation in December 2011 – the largest single award the Foundation has ever made. UCL President & Provost 

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation says, “The work that UCL is doing in dementia and related fields is both outstanding and pioneering. We are delighted to announce an award of £2 million, and to continue our funding of neurology at UCL – building on our previous investment to create the Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre. This is a hugely ambitious project, and we are excited about the increased possibilities that this new space will open up.”

The UK DRI, launched in autumn 2017, is a £290m investment into dementia research from founding funders the Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. The iconic new home for the Institute of Neurology and the UK DRI will be part of UCL’s redevelopment of the Eastman Dental Hospital site, which will house over 500 neuroscience researchers when completed.

The Wolfson Foundation is an independent charity that supports and promotes excellence in the fields of science, health, education and the arts and humanities.

Since it was established in 1955, over £900 million (£1.9 billion in real terms) has been awarded to more than 11,000 projects throughout the UK, all on the basis of expert review.


Nombrero – The launch



Vanessa Jenkins from Plymouth University came up with the Nombrero, a combination wet feed reservoir and extra platform or refuge for mice. The Nombrero hangs easily from the cage lid so it won’t tip over. It can be used as a bowl to contain wet food which won’t therefore come into contact with the cage bedding. It serves equally as an extra platform or refuge for the mice thereby increasing the surface area and providing additional activity.

















Janet Wood Innovation Awards- the project moves on!

Following the breathtaking success of the first ever JWI Awards last year, we were hoping of course for a similar level of interest and some truly brilliant, innovative ideas for products designed to enrich the lives of the animals so precious to our sector. As those who were able to see the final stage designs during this year’s Congress will have witnessed, we weren’t at all disappointed.

As before, it was extremely difficult for the judges to whittle down the entrants to just three. Some really good ideas were forthcoming in this year’s competition. In the end, it comes down to a combination of innovative design concept and suitability for cost-effective manufacturing. Our three winners clearly had both in spades and we look forward very much to bringing them to you as finished products in the very near future.

The winners


Our third placed designer, Marc Curtis, a Senior Technician from UCL’s Institute of Opthalmology, came up with a clever variation on the Fast Trac with his Mouse Spinning Wheel able to be attached easily to the bars of the cage lid. As Marc points out in his specification,  keeping this up above the floor of the cage provides more space for the mice to move throughout the cage.




Victoria Preston’s Aqua Image/Aqua Floaters design was our second placed product. Victoria is an Animal Technician at Liverpool University and came up with the great combination of a plastic insert shaped to fit into the bottom of a Zebra Fish tank and printed with an image of pebbles and sand.  The easily cleanable insert blocks out light coming from below as well as replicating the natural environment. Studies have shown that this type of substrate image really helps the well-being of the fish.  The second part of this ingenious invention helps the zebra fish in their need to seek shelter as well as providing suitable enrichment activity. Small, easily cleanable plastic discs can be floated on the surface, replicating fallen leaves and the like to provide the hiding places the fish need. They float around freely with the natural movement of the water offering natural enrichment activity as the fish follow them to seek shelter. A simply brilliant combination.



numbreroTalking about brilliant combinations, our first prize winner, Vanessa Jenkins from Plymouth University came up with the Nombrero, a combination wet feed reservoir and extra platform or refuge for mice. The Nombrero hangs easily from the cage lid so it won’t tip over. It can be used as a bowl to contain wet food which won’t therefore come into contact with the cage bedding. It serves equally as an extra platform or refuge for the mice thereby increasing the surface area and providing additional activity.

Great prizes awarded at this year’s IAT Congress in Harrogate

Vanessa wins a fabulous all expenses paid trip to a trade conference of her choice.  Victoria takes home a fantastic iPad Pro whilst Marc wins £200 worth of shopping vouchers. All 3 prize winners will have access to a £4,000 grant for publication in an open access scientific journal. This amazing prize is awarded in association with the Parsemus Foundation. 

Junior Janet Wood Innovation Awards – Here come the Kids part 2 – The winners!

jwi-jr-winnerIn the last edition of Spotlight we were delighted to let you know about the first ever JWIA Kids Challenge Project hosted by the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology. Students from the Academy came up with all sorts of ideas for new enrichment products and pitched them to fellow students and members of staff. Once the winners from each group had been selected, the students then had to present to a panel of industry experts. The  ‘Dragons’ chaired by our very own Ryan Hill, found the decision making to be a real challenge but finally selected a couple of outstanding ideas and two of these are showcased here. We don’t know about you but we’re absolutely blown away by the imagination as well as the serious thinking and presentation that have gone into these projects.

Ist Prize winner was Meriel and her BurrowBall. We’ll let her excellent presentation speak for itself. 

Burrow Ball
My product has been designed to provide environmental enrichment for mice and rats. It would be constructed from paper pulp in order to provide a source of bedding as the rodent would chew it, encouraging the rodent’s natural behaviours of gnawing and nest-making. Due to the fact that the product is hollow, it could be stuffed with additional bedding material to provide further enrichment. As the design allows easy access to the hollow core, it would not likely be a time-consuming process to prepare beforehand. However, it could also be possible to have the bedding placed into the centre by the manufacturer, saving time in the facility. To encourage foraging behaviours, food pellets could potentially be placed in the  Burrow Ball.

The shape of my product allows the rodent to grip it with their teeth or paws and move it about their enclosure, which is important in order to help ensure the rodent feels safe. Mice and rats need to be able to move their bedding material. For mice, the diameter of my product would be around 5cm. This would allow it to fit within the enclosure and be a suitable size for the mouse to move. For rats, the diameter would we around 7cm as they are larger but there are still space constraints in the testing facilities. The bands that make up the product would scale accordingly.

One other potential option would be produce a similarly-shaped product made of mouse or rat food, but this may not be possible due to restrictions in the testing facilities and manufacturing

…and the second prize goes to!

Mouse House by Ethan

My enrichment is designed to simulate a mouse’s burrow. I decided that this would be a good way to make the mice feel like they are in their natural habitat because mice in the wild spend most of their time building burrows to keep themselves safe from predators and to keep them warm.  Therefore this design would help the mice feel more safe which will reduce how stressed the mouse feels. The design will improve the lives of mice with pups because they will be able to keep all of their pups in one place where they are safe.

mouse-house-1The burrow is designed to be as similar as a real mouse’s burrow as possible therefore it will have three main sections an entrance tunnel for the mice to enter and exit the nest, a nest where the mice will have bedding material to move around for warmth and comfort and an escape tunnel that the mice would use in the wild if a predator entered through the entrance tunnel. 

There are also many features of the burrow which help to make life easier for the staff in animal research facilities. It will be made of red polycarbonate so that staff can easily see the mice through the burrow while still making the burrow as similar as a mouse’s natural habitat as possible because mice can’t see red light so the polycarbonate will appear black. The burrow will also have a removable lid so that the burrow can be opened without disturbing the mouse’s nest.

While I was designing the burrow I found it difficult to make it small enough to fit inside of the cage while still making the nest big enough for serval mice to fit inside so I decided that some of the nest could sit below the bedding in the cage rather than on top of it. I wanted to make sure that the nest was dark because inside of a real mouse’s burrow it is dark so rather than having two holes in the nest it has two tunnels leading into the nest to stop as much light as possible from entering the nest.

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