The Roslin Institute's aim is to build upon scientific understanding of genetic, cellular, organ and systems bioscience in animal development and pathology and to use this knowledge to prevent and treat important veterinary diseases and develop sustainable farm animal production systems. Long-term research is delivered by divisions encompassing genetics, genomics, development, infection, immunity and clinical science. The Institute is also currently involved in COVID-19 research. It receives strategic investment funding from the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
“The Roslin Institute is designed with an ethos of sharing. Scientists can often tend to become a little isolated in their own space and not share space, but one of our Directors saw the value of scientists mixing,” he explained. “Our new buildings have been designed to enable and encourage people to mix, share equipment, and share space, with the premise that ideas would be born from that because people would talk to each other more rather than sit in separate rooms. In addition, by getting people to share equipment, you need less equipment. So there are savings in that: space-savings, cost-savings. And the ultimate outcome of sharing is that people work better. Everything has been designed around this, for example, our new buildings have open plan labs.”
Creating a superb environment for science
The Institute continually strives to support scientists in every way possible, so that they can produce research.
“We have a very strong operations team, which is geared towards supporting our scientists in every way, so that the scientists can do the science. We stock the labs with consumables, we provide the media, we look after all their equipment. They’re not expected to do anything like that. They just concentrate on what they need to do and not become bogged down by having to go to procurement to buy, for example, 300 tubes.” said Mr McTeir. “What’s key is that we try to provide them with a good working environment that they’re excited to work in. It, of course, extends beyond equipment. For example, there are gymnasiums etc. and we're looking to create a football / grassed area for football and volleyball. So, despite the fact that we are in difficult times with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still thinking about providing things to make a better environment. The campus is generally new. If I look at what it was 12-15 years ago, and what it is now, it’s been brought together and it’s still evolving.”
To meet guidelines from the BBSRC back in the early 2000’s, the Institute introduced a Quality Assurance system that includes a database for equipment.
“All our equipment is barcoded on a database. It raises when things have to be serviced. We're very tight on servicing and quality and this works well for efficiency. It fits into the culture that we have created about sharing equipment, by allowing us to identify, for example, why would we need twenty water baths in a lab, when we only need maybe four?” remarked Mr. McTeir. “It has changed the whole concept of equipment efficiency. Although it was a bit of work to set up, by creating this database, we managed to take equipment out of labs, store it, and then bring it back in. So, it gave good value and enhanced the longevity of equipment. Functionality and longevity definitely benefit from regular servicing and maintenance. We have a PHCbi -150ºC freezer which is nearly 20 years old and nobody's had to do anything to it other than regular servicing. We've not had any problems with it.”