Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor saw an increase of $9.5 million in funding for research projects in 2020, three related to COVID-19.

In all, Jackson Laboratory was awarded over $100 million in research funding in 2020, much of it for projects related to COVID-19. The money came from more than 200 individual grants.

Dr. Karolina Palucka received $1.1 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for research on the specifics of how coronavirus infections take place, work that will help with treatments and vaccine development and refinement. The lab also received funding for developing mouse strains that reflect human genetic diversity for research into coronavirus infection.

Jackson Lab has also been providing COVID testing services for partner institutions in Maine and Connecticut and has helped scientists preserve their research work when their institutions were being shut down.

The lab also got funding to maintain and expand its research into Alzheimer’s and aging, as well as cancer and rare diseases, said Kenneth Fasman, the lab’s senior vice president for research.

“Those are examples of situations where we bring together a number of our faculty (in research) and we’re quite proud of our record,” he said. “We expect 2021 to be another banner year for the lab.”

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Employees shifted their hours and adapted in other ways so they could continue working in the labs while social distancing and taking other precautions against coronavirus infection, said Fasman. Employees who could work from home, such as those doing computational research, did so, Fasman said.

As with many institutions, Jackson Lab is likely to continue many of these precautions even as vaccines are rolled out to counter COVID-19, he said.

“There’s no question we’re not going back to the old world,” Fasman said.

Jackson Lab is home to one of six National Institute on Aging-funded Nathan Shock Centers of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging, which focuses on the mechanisms of aging in mammals. The center recently received a renewal of its funding for the work – $5.3 million for the next five years.

The National Institution of Health also awarded Jackson Lab $6.3 million for continued work related to research into Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

The lab also received additional funding for research on cancer, rare diseases – including rare genetic diseases – and cardiovascular diseases.

Jackson Lab, founded in 1929, conducts research into diseases, cures and treatment, but faced controversy this summer when it decided to remove the name of founder C.C. Little from a conference center in Bar Harbor.

Little, the Jackson officials said, had been a leader in the eugenics movement in the U.S. and also had ties to the tobacco industry. Eugenics is a philosophy that suggests the human race should be improved by encouraging reproduction by people with “desirable” traits and discouraging reproduction by those with “undesirable” traits. The movement, popular a century ago, was adopted by Adolph Hitler and eventually was disavowed because of its racist underpinnings.

Jackson Lab President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Edison Liu said at the time that the lab “repudiate(s) the social and political construct of eugenics, an idea and movement now thoroughly discredited on both scientific and moral grounds.”

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