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Opening Remarks Judith L. Vaitukaitis Director, National Center for Research Resources National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Maryland It is fitting that this meeting is taking place today at the National Academy of Sciences. Under this roof, the National Research Councilâfounded in 1916 under President Woodrow Wilsonâhas worked diligently for the betterment of science through cooperation among public and private as well as national and international organizations. To this purpose, cooperation and harmony knit a smaller world where scientific interaction and cooperation grows largerâcross- ing not only the boundaries of research disciplines, but those of countries and continents as well. We monitor trends in biomedical research, set priorities, and focus the research community. As a result, we markedly expand our insights and create opportunities for the promise of improving world health. The governments of the United States and Japan have long recognized the importance of scientific cooperation and the synergy that it generates. A joint program established nearly two decades ago by these governments has spawned new projects that have helped to advance techniques and establish standards for biomedical research around the world. The National Institutes of Health and the Japanese Central Institute for Experimental Animals, under the terms of this program, have long nurtured collaborative, information-exchange activities. The tenacity of many leadersâincluding Drs. Nomura, Kagiuama, Held, and Allen as well as other important contributorsâhas immensely enhanced the genetic and microbiologic integrity of laboratory rat and mouse colonies, not only in the United States and Japan, but worldwide. Advanced microbiologic monitoring for major infectious agents and improved diagnostic techniques for diseases now safeguard our valuable but fragile resource investments, including specific pathogen-free animals. 3
4 MICROBIAL AND PHENOTYPIC DEFINITION OF RATS AND MICE Through improved monitoring and sophisticated husbandry, the opportuni- ties for biomedical investigators to create and use unique and complex animal models have multiplied, resulting in powerful research tools. As genetics and genomics rapidly and dramatically affect the study of biology and medicine, the role of comparative medicine cannot be understated. Not long ago, the capacity to remove or alter with precision a single gene among many thousands in the genome of an animal and to transmit this mutation to all subsequent progeny was considered nothing short of science fiction. Now, as a result of such revolution- ary breakthroughs, investigators interested in understanding the structure and function of specific genes and their expressed macromolecules are demanding new cutting-edge research resources and technologies. They are asking for sophisticated, high-quality animal models; new and advanced instruments; and technologies. The mouse has been a critical model for the identification of brain lesions in Huntingtonâs disease, the discovery of genes responsible for several cancers, and many other diseases. The rat modelâalthough not currently as robust as the mouse in many waysâis, however, the best âfunctionallyâ characterized mam- malian model system. As production of transgenic rats becomes routine in many laboratories, including commercial settings, well-characterized, genetically altered rat models will contribute significantly to studies of human biology and disease. Mouse and rat model systems will further enable investigators to discover gene function by linking physiology, genetics, and clinical phenotypes. Todayâs meeting is critical to helping the global scientific enterprise harmo- nize the mouse and rat models and to meeting research resource challenges of the 21st century. Over the years, you have shared your insights and have challenged conventional wisdom about laboratory animal sciences; you have also expressed your vision for the future and then set the wheels in motion for new generations of molecular biologists. Together our strong commitment to laboratory animal research infrastructure will pave the way for further refining these valuable genetic resources. I look forward to your fruitful discussions and insights.