With the development of new investigative techniques, exciting research capabilities are continually being unlocked that allow previously unprecedented in-depth investigations of non-model organisms. Such organisms, which have always been part of the research emphasis of the Center for Evolutionary and Theoretical Immunology (CETI), can significantly expand our understanding of the biological worid beyond that obtained by studying only a limited repertoire of model organisms. However, investigation of non-model organisms comes with significant challenges, because maintenance of, and experimentation with, such organisms frequently falls outside of established infrastructures. The Controlled Environments Core (CEC) was established in Phase I of CETI's existence to facilitate our study of non-model organisms. Having moved into building space made available in Phase II, a now-expanded CEC is configured to provide safe long-term cryopreservation of organisms, tissues, samples and (immune-) reagents uniquely generated for our studies. The CEC will provide users with a freezer monitoring and alarm system, combined with ultra-cold freezer backup capacity, basic ultra-cold freezer maintenance and new liquid nitrogen storage capability. The CEC also provides a cell/tissue culture lab with a biosafety cabinet certified for use with BSL-2 organisms (human pathogenic bacteria and parasites). Moreover, controlled environments including environmental chambers and specially designed rearing rooms are provided for culturing, maintenance and experimentation with animals such as fishes (lungfish, trout), and various invertebrates including freshwater snails, crickets, parasitoids and schistosome and other flatworm parasites routinely used by CETI investigators. Such organisms are not routinely maintained in typical institutional animal resource facilities. Additionally, we can maintain organisms like plants or bacteria investigated by other users. The CEC will assume maintenance of selected (strains of) animal species such that they can be made continuously available to heavy users. Organismal resources will be shared as appropriate, under the guidance of the CETI Steering Committee. New staff will be appointed to manage and maintain the Core's equipment and provide basic care for organisms held in the CEC. Core users are required to meet regulations for compliance with animal use and biosafety, and will be trained to optimize efficiency and safety. In accordance with the mandates of Phase III, the CEC will work with the Steering Committee to support CETI's Pilot Project and waiver programs, and to initiate a business model that will transition the CEC to cost neutrality by the end of this phase.
The CEC will support our users with facilities that enable safe long-term storage and provide unique controlled environments for maintenance and safe experimentation with non-traditional organisms. The CEC will thereby allow expansion of insights into biomedical sciences beyond that permitted by mainstream model organisms. This in turn will favor the success of CETI's investigators in competing for extramural funding, thereby improving their career success, and helping to fulfill the goals ofthe IDeA program.