BAR HARBOR — At the 2022 annual meeting of the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) in July, President Hermann Haller outlined how the lab at a time of unprecedented growth will draw on its rich history as it continues to expand its drug discovery and education initiatives, the physical campus and scientific resources.
To accomplish this growth, the lab has committed $30 million to four areas: $2 million to expediting drug discoveries, $6 million to education and training programs, $11 million to building a greener campus and $11 million to supporting outstanding science.
Expediting drug discoveries, the institute’s newest initiative, will allow pharmaceutical companies to determine early in the drug-development process whether the drug is likely to be effective and whether it is toxic to organs. In large part, these data will be derived from non-mammalian models such as the zebra fish – a fish that has a similar genetic structure as humans and is one of the animal models bred at MDIBL. Since the embryos of zebra fish are completely transparent, it is easier for researchers to determine the impact of a drug or genetic mutation.
Haller said the lab plans to double the number of graduate students – students who conduct their doctoral degree research in the lab of an MDIBL faculty member but receive their degree from their home institution. Currently these include the University of Maine Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Engineering, the University of Hannover in Germany and the University of Toulouse in France. To increase the number or post-doctoral fellows, the lab has partnered with a number of institutions in the U.S. and abroad. Through its courses and conference, MDIBL will continue to provide resources for students, educators, scientists, entrepreneurs and professional scientific staff.
The $11 million earmarked for expanding the campus, said Haller, will allow MDIBL to develop a state-of-the-art and “green” scientific village, restore some historical buildings and continue to construct energy-efficient housing, laboratories and infrastructure. Haller first introduced this initiative at the 2021 annual meeting. “If we are going to have people here, we must take care of them,” he said. At this year’s meeting, he restated his commitment to developing a flourishing scientific village.
Recruiting and retaining faculty is the lab’s highest priority – a priority that requires the lab to invest in resources that allow faculty to conduct cutting-edge science.
“The MDI Biological Laboratory has invested heavily in its Light Microscopy Facility (LMF) including adding a new light sheet microscope to the already impressive facility and has doubled the size of its animal care facility,” said Haller. This facility houses the largest transgenic axolotl, or salamander, colony on the east coast. The animal husbandry team recently introduced the African turquoise killifish and plans to grow the colony so that it is the largest in the U.S.
“As we continue to grow, our core values of collaboration, integrity and scientific rigor guide us,” said Haller, “but what sets us apart and sustains us is our unique culture and community spirit.”