Keith St. Pierre named Facility Leader of the Year. The Jackson Laboratory Reproductive Sciences Importation and Isolation Facility wins Facility of the Year.

The TurnKey Awards were presented to the 2011 winners at the TurnKey Conference on April 14th in Baltimore, MD. The awards, given by ALN Magazine, ALN World, and sponsored by Tecniplast, are in recognition of excellence in two categories: leadership and facility design.

At the awards luncheon, Keith St. Pierre and The Jackson Laboratory Reproductive Sciences Importation and Isolation Facility were presented with plaques and celebrated as this year’s winners.

In addition, there were three Honorable Mentions given for outstanding facility leadership. The awards were given to Philip O. Kechele, Sandra S. Schenone, and Subbiah Yoganathan.

The Jackson Laboratory Reproductive Sciences Importation and Isolation Facility

The Jackson Laboratory Reproductive Sciences Importation and Isolation Facility Receives the TurnKey Facility of the Year Award
The Facility of the Year Award recognizes outstanding achievements in the design/build of a new or renovated laboratory animal facility. The award is intended to showcase new ideas and accomplishments in facility design, construction, and operation. This year’s winner is The Jackson Laboratory Importation and Isolation Facility in Bar Harbor, Maine.

The Jackson Laboratory’s Reproductive Sciences Importation and Isolation Facility (Building 64) project was undertaken to extend the capability and capacity to serve the biomedical research community. Building 64 is a newly constructed containment facility for receiving, housing, and processing all “imported” mice of unknown health status delivered from other institutions around the world. Completed in July 2010, the three-story, 22,500 square foot (including full basement) building is located on The Jackson Laboratory’s Bar Harbor, Maine campus.

The main building includes:

  • A 5,000 pen-capacity vivarium for housing mice.
  • An in vitro fertilization lab for harvesting and processing eggs, sperm, and embryos.
  • A cryogenic storage facility with 20 large LN2 tank freezers.
  • Cryopreservation sample processing laboratory.
  • A BSL-2 cell culture laboratory for importing cell lines.

Funded in part by an award from the Maine Technology Asset Fund, this facility was designed to support the importation and quarantine of all animals brought onto the Bar Harbor campus; provide dedicated containment space for a high throughput cryopreservation and embryo production operation; and expand the capacity to store, retrieve, and ship cryopreserved embryos, ovaries, sperm, and DNA samples.

The first floor of the facility handles the importation and isolation of animals. The second floor houses the IVF Laboratory, facility PEEL station, BSL-2 Cell Culture Space, and additional office space. The cryopreserved samples are located in tanks in the basement floor of the new facility, allowing for passive piping of the liquid nitrogen, as the external storage tank is at ground level. There will also be subsequent phases to this project that will allow new programs to fit out and occupy the third floor shell of this structure.

According to Rob Taft, Scientific Director, Reproductive Services, “The final product of these efforts is a facility that functions well, thanks in part to some unique features: use of vertical mechanical space, reducing the height of the building to meet site restrictions while maximizing usable space and making it possible for staff to work on mechanical systems without entering operational areas in the facility; use of a disposable caging system, eliminating the need for a cage wash facility while remaining green as all waste can be recycled or composted; implementation of a robust network infrastructure to facilitate the use of virtual desktop machines—providing an identical user experience regardless of location while reducing hardware costs and energy use; double-sided biological safety cabinets, designed in cooperation with the manufacturer, that help staff work more efficiently and take up less space than conventional solutions.”

The project site is located at the “back door” of the campus which leads to one entrance of Acadia National Park. This national treasure, visited by millions of people each year, attracts outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. Being located adjacent to the Park can provide challenges when designing a facility, as it must blend with the natural surroundings and take away as little from the landscape as possible.

The building location was carefully planned to allow for future expansion and accommodation of future service roadways. The orientation allows for utilities and services to enter the building facing inward to the campus rather than toward the natural habitat and roadway. The siting strategy also allowed the design team to place the research labs facing the natural side of the building, providing them with natural lighting and great views.

The project was initiated with a very efficient and unique programming approach that occurred over a three-day period. Each day started with interviews by the design team with user groups and ended with a session of the core facilities team to develop plan concepts based on the programming knowledge gained that day. This allowed for a series of organizational concepts to be developed concurrent with the programming data—as new information was captured it could be evaluated in real time to test several active planning strategies. At the end of the three days, the team not only had collected the program data but presented several organizational strategies that were vetted by the project stakeholders. This process allowed the team to very quickly arrive at successful design strategies for plan arrangement, massing, expansion, and siting.

Autodesk® Revit® was used to make the design and construction process more efficient and intelligent. It was also used to evaluate design options, for coordination between disciplines, and to identify and resolve constructability issues. It was also an invaluable tool for communicating with stakeholders, as the Revit drawings help architects and designers capture and analyze early concepts and show them in a format easily grasped by the stakeholders and then maintain designs through documentation and construction.

The owner, architect and engineering, and construction manager team communicated regularly with weekly formal and daily informal communications in order to move swiftly toward fulfilling the project objectives. This was vital for this diverse team that was geographically distanced to succeed. This team included RMW Architecture, Sacramento, California, as the lead architectural firm, WBRC, Bangor, Maine, for engineering services associated with mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design, and Woodard and Curran for site permitting, site design, and civil work.

The project manager and a group of more than twelve stakeholders met in a standing weekly meeting for the duration of this project to discuss the details of the weekly project activity, address any open-ended questions, strategize and develop the design, plan program transition and facility occupation, and provide a forum for open communication. The project manager facilitated the oversight of these areas but brought in a separate occupation coordinator to work with a designated manager from within the reproductive sciences department to manage and execute the final occupation of the facility. The occupation plan was developed over ten months and executed over a total of five days. This occupation went swiftly and resulted in essentially no downtime for the reproductive sciences program.

John Kulik, Senior Manager of the Cell Biology & Microinjection Service noted that, “Not only does the design of the Importation and Isolation Facility support our research and operations, it is a most pleasant facility to work in every day. Numerous large windows are placed at the ends of main corridors and in the research laboratory. Interior rooms also have windows to exterior rooms allowing access to sunlight—which is truly appreciated during the long Maine winters.”

Keith St. Pierre Receives the TurnKey Facility Leader of the Year Award

Keith J. St. Pierre, BA, RLATG, Operations Manager of the Duke University Medical Center, Division of Laboratory Animal Resources in Durham, North Carolina was named the 2011 TurnKey Facility Leader of the Year. The Facility Leader of the Year Award recognizes a laboratory animal professional who exhibits outstanding leadership and promotes the highest standards in the care and use of laboratory animals.

Keith has been in his current position for over two years. He is Operations Manager of the Global Health Research Building (GHRB) as well as the Medical Science Research Building II (MSRBII) at the Duke Medical Center. The GHRB is a biocontainment laboratory that supports basic research necessary to develop drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines for emerging infections and biodefense. The MSRBII has a 16,000 square foot animal housing space and is a Tier 1 facility— the “cleanest” of all animal housing space on the campus. Duke was the first of 13 NIAID-funded Regional Biocontainment Laboratories (RBL) within the NIAID Biodefense Network to open, and Keith directs the BSL-3 vivarium within the RBL. The nature of the work in this facility includes the most hazardous and highly regulated studies on the campus, necessitating rigid attention to detail, close supervision of staff, and a hands-on approach to daily operations. From the beginning, Keith’s leadership helped bring the facility online, develop appropriate SOPs, train scientists and animal workers, and provide the highest level of service to the scientific community.

Since accepting his current position, Keith’s facility has undergone “flawless” inspections from AAALAC, NIH, and the IACUC. As described by a colleague, Keith “has gained the support and confidence of the researchers, research staff, and his employees who now understand the necessity for the policies and willingly abide by them. Keith has also won the confidence of the Director and the Safety Officer of the Biosafety Lab through a demonstration of strict adherence to ABSL-2 and 3 policy as well as developing innovative materials management and husbandry processes to ensure the safety of animal care staff and lab staff working directly with infected animals.”

Keith is active in the local AALAS branch and encourages colleagues and staff to participate in branch meetings and activities. He has given presentations and written posters for National AALAS meetings, including co-authorship of a platform presentation, “A Novel Approach for Ensuring Compliance with Personal Protective Equipment Doffing Procedures in ABSL-3 Vivaria.” In the letters of support for his nomination, Keith was praised for his professionalism while encouraging an interactive and enjoyable work environment. Animal husbandry is an area of high turnover, however, Keith has exhibited great success in recruiting and retaining personnel. It was noted that his strength is in creating an environment that combines high productivity with a high level of employee satisfaction.

Descriptions of Keith’s management style include his ability to promote “science and animal welfare while maintaining a harmonious work environment.” One letter of support said that Keith’s management style was best described by sixth century philosopher Lao Tzu; “When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.’ ”

Facility Leadership Honorable Mentions Awarded to Philip Kechele, Sandra Schenone, and Subbiah Yoganathan
Due to the large number of exceptional nominations for this year’s Facility Leader of the Year Award, it was decided to present Honorable Mention recognition for excellence in leadership and management. Three award recipients were selected.

Philip O. Kechele is Manager, Animal Research Support for Pfizer Animal Health, Veterinary Medicine Research and Development in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In a letter supporting his nomination, a colleague wrote, “Phil Kechele is a throwback to a time when doing whatever it takes to get the job done was just a way of life.” Phil works in a building that is in continual renovation/upgrading mode to accommodate different studies. These renovations include changing a primate facility to an area for companion animals and rodents that now houses poultry. Part of another floor was renovated from cat rooms to runs for over 50 lb hounds. Another recent remodel converted a large storage area to dog runs. It was noted that Phil has coordinated access and schedules for each of these changes so that ongoing studies have not been impacted by noise or traffic. On the people side of the management equation, one technician stated that, Phil is “the total boss package—great at what he does, vast knowledge of just about anything and everything and very personable. He is the type of boss you want to work for.”

Sandra S. Schenone, RLATG, is Supervisor/Training Coordinator for Arizona State University, Department of Animal Care and Technologies, in Tempe, Arizona. During her twelve year career at ASU, Sandra has embraced change as an opportunity to learn and has shown great skill and adaptability in an evolving program. She has responsibility for a large diversity of non-traditional species such as wild caught birds, mice, rats, venomous and non-venomous reptiles, fish, amphibians, and NHPs. Sandra oversees a staff of ten across four buildings in support of over 30 investigators and their staff. Colleagues praised Sandra’s skill in mentoring staff and her gift for taking “an unsuccessful employee… and make them a successful part of the team under her tutelage.” She is an active member of the AZAALAS branch and has written posters and articles, and has given numerous presentations at various conference and meetings. In addition, Sandra spends a large amount of personal time doing public outreach. She is frequently invited to give presentations for young students and is noted for being an engaging speaker and knowledgeable spokeswoman for ASU and Arizona wildlife.

Subbiah Yoganathan is Senior Manager, Animal Facility with the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Specializing in laboratory animal care for over 25 years, Subbiah showed outstanding leadership in the transition and relocation from a facility in Boston to a new vivarium in Cambridge. As facility director, he oversaw all aspects of the preparation, planning, and architectural design of the vivarium. He worked with architects, contractors, and vendors on a daily basis to ensure that the facility was completed to specification in a timely manner. He assisted in the sentinel placement and monitoring, orchestrated the transfer of animals and equipment from the old to the new facility, and oversaw the decommissioning of the Boston site. The facility move was successfully completed in September 2010. Over the course of his career, Subbiah has worked with a wide range of animals and has an in-depth knowledge and interest in animal housing and related equipment. He is an active member of the regional and local AALAS branches. In support of his nomination, a colleague noted that Subbiah’s personal attention to each investigator and his/her program is a hallmark of his dedicated, professional, and friendly management style.