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20 September 2017Americas

Jackson Lab seeks arbitration with Chinese university over mice

Jackson Laboratory, a non-profit medical research institution, is attempting to compel arbitration against Nanjing University over the sale of genetically modified mice.

The lab accused the China-based university of breeding the lab’s mice and selling them to third parties, in a filing at the US District Court for the District of Maine on Monday, September 18.

Jackson maintains a repository of over 8,000 different strains of genetically modified mice (called Jax mice) for use in biomedical and disease research.

The lab restricts the sale of its mice to uses for research purposes only.

In August 2002, the director of Nanjing’s model animal centre (part of the university) approached Jackson to purchase certain strains of mice.

The director indicated that Nanjing planned to breed/crossbreed the mice but that it was not using the mice to provide products or services to other organisations, said the claim.

Jackson added that the director, on behalf of the centre, had signed a number of agreements specifying that Nanjing would not breed the mice for sale outside of the institution and would only use the mice for research purposes.

One of the agreements—covering the use of strains, signed in 2004—confirmed that any mice purchased in the future or previously bought were to be used for the “sole purpose of conducting internal research”.

The strains agreement contained an arbitration clause.

According to the claim, Nanjing is now selling descendants of the mice to third parties.

“Though mice purchased from Jackson are quality controlled and genetically maintained in such a way as to ensure that Jax mice are genetically consistent across a given mouse strain, mice purchased from Jax but bred and re-sold by an unknown third party may be subject to genetic variation through random mutation,” said the claim.

Jackson said that it has tried to resolve the dispute with the university and has sent a number of cease-and-desist letters, including one in March 2016 pointing to at least 141 strains of mice that were descendants of mice purchased from Jackson.

The lab is requesting that the court compel arbitration and enjoin Nanjing from engaging in non-research, commercial sales of the mice.

Stephanie Wasco, a spokesperson for Jackson, said: “Our mice are the most published mouse models in the world for very good reason, and we take our relationships with research institutions around the globe very seriously.”

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