The integrity of research relies on high-quality breeding, but many researchers find it impractical to breed and maintain colonies in-house for a variety of reasons, including limited resources for personnel, space, and experience. Providers like Envigo can help researchers receive only those animal models needed for their research by creating and managing research model colonies, from standard to custom models.
To better understand the typical partnership format, Envigo Project Manager Kelly Anderson explores the role of active project management and personalized communications to support researchers with tailor-made contract breeding.
Understanding the researcher's needs to create a breeding plan
From the first point of customer contact to the delivery of models, project managers play an exceptionally hands-on role in supporting researchers, starting with a complimentary consultation.
“Many of our customers have an idea of what they want with a specific animal model,” she explained, “but some researchers turn to us for guidance. We work to build a breeding plan based on what animals they have available to start with and what their required deliverables are. Every customer is different.”
After creating a breeding plan, which can include many details, (e.g., the number of animals to genotype, the number of cages needed, and special husbandry requirements) Kelly can create a quote and a timeline.
“The breeding plans can be quite complicated,” she said. “We first consider the phenotype and genetics of the animals we’re starting with and how to maintain the colony. We also determine if we have sufficient breeding data on the particular model to estimate our weaned litter average. We have robust data for our Envigo commercial models, but we may have to make some assumptions for newly generated and genetically modified custom models.”
Project managers tend to make a conservative breeding plan that assumes a certain percentage of non-productive breeders to ensure we can provide reliable timelines to researchers.
“I strive to impress the customer by beating our estimated timelines,” Kelly said.
Providing personalized attention
After receiving the quote, some customers prefer to review the breeding plan in detail.
“Most of our customers look to us as the experts to provide the deliverables, so they don’t ask to see our breeding plan,” she explained. “However, we do have customers that would like to go over the plan in detail, which we are happy to share and discuss.”
With a signed agreement in place, the Envigo team either starts creating or transferring the models and providing periodic status reports.
“We usually run colony reports on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and the frequency of our reporting is very flexible to meet our customers’ needs,” said Kelly. “We can provide various levels of personalized attention based on their preferences. In addition, the customer has 24/7 access to their colonies via our online reporting platform LabTracks™.”
Flexibly adapting to changing needs
While an initial statement of work is created to kick off the project, Kelly explained that the majority of customers will require at least one change to the deliverables.
“Our project directive is a working document for our technicians that gives them visibility into the latest directives for that project, especially when requirements change,” she said. “It’s how we can effectively communicate with operations as part of project management.”
Customers can also use the online portal, LabTracks™, to manage their colonies within Envigo’s facilities, view current projects, request a task, or generate a report.
“Although this platform isn’t unique to laboratory service providers, it’s just another way we’re giving hands-on tools and support for our customers. Even if customers don’t use it, I’m readily available to provide updates to ensure we are reaching milestones according to the breeding plans.”
Kelly Anderson’s team also encourages open lines of communication as the project is underway.
“If there are any improvements that customers think can be made, we’re always open to constructive feedback so we can serve our customers better,” she said. “We take their concerns into account and work to prove the value of our services to them.”
Serving as an extension of the team
By offering a high level of scientific guidance along with productive communication channels, Kelly Anderson and the project management team can maintain close contact for those customers that appreciate a full level of support.
“We understand the importance of timelines, budgets, and delivery,” said Kelly. “We know that critical research counts on our services, highlighting the importance of dedicated project management and consistent communications throughout the contract breeding process.”
Speak with a member of our project management team to discuss your needs and learn how we can support your study with our contract breeding services.