Lab Partners

  • Bob Gulla Managing Editor, Reason, FM Global

Jackson Laboratory is committed to reducing risk, avoiding business interruption and preserving its own—and others’—vital scientific advancements in genetics.


Just outside the picturesque tourist town of Bar Harbor, Maine, you will encounter an unlikely sight: the Jackson Laboratory, one of the world’s cornerstones of mammalian-based genetics research. It is certainly not what you’d expect to find on the remote Mount Desert Island, deep amid the pine trees and steps from the Atlantic Ocean. Its location in the northeast corner of the United States along the road leading to the beautiful, rugged coastline of Acadia National Park is a small part of the Jackson Laboratory’s very unique story, but a critical one.


The laboratory was founded in 1929 by Clarence Cook (C.C.) Little, one of the first geneticists in the country. The Harvard-educated Little was a scientific pioneer, believing that the mouse was a near-perfect model for human diseases, and that cancer was actually a genetic disease.


Dr. Little was first and foremost an educator. He served as the president of the University of Maine and the University of Michigan in the 1920s. As a result, he was well connected to the wealthy businessmen and automobile barons of the day. When he was ready to set up his laboratory, wealthy Boston businessman George Dorr provided him land and the funding came from the budding auto industry, including Edsel Ford, president of the Ford Motor Company, and Roscoe B. Jackson (for whom the laboratory is named), president of the Hudson Motorcar Company. Dorr would later organize the gifts of land that became Acadia National Park just down the road from the laboratory.


The laboratory started with eight researchers conducting some of the world’s first cancer studies. But the research was just a fraction of Dr. Little’s contribution to science. He developed the very first inbred strains of mice.


Those strains live on today in colonies at the Jackson Laboratory. “JAX” mice are now the backbone of scientific research around the world. The lab ships more than three million mice annually to more than 20,000 laboratories in 63 countries.


During the last 10 years, the Jackson Laboratory has seen tremendous growth. Along the way, FM Global has been there, working to understand the lab’s indelible history and its vital role in scientific research, and to help mitigate the unique risks the company faces.


Today, more than 1,300 people work at the Maine facility, including more than 200 PhDs, medical doctors and scientists studying a host of human diseases. The Jackson Laboratory now has a campus in California to serve the biomedical community on the U.S. west coast and is building a third facility in Connecticut.


The Jackson Laboratory and FM Global are working together to reduce risk and avoid the kind of business interruption that could jeopardize critical genomic research being conducted around the world.


Dave Kuchta
Maintenance and Utility Plant Manager, The Jackson Laboratory

I manage every aspect of facility operation in the Bar Harbor Campus, which is a 135-acre (55-hectares) campus, with 875,000 square feet (81,290 square meters) of mixed use space. This location had grown continuously since the 1930s so the variety of the types of space here is vast. We have a complex utility structure and to add to the challenge, we’re located in Bar Harbor, Maine. It’s a fairly remote location and basically at the very end of the supply chain.


I have a wide variety of roles, ranging from grounds maintenance and aesthetics right through to controls and utility plant operations. I have a lot of involvement in financial aspects—budgeting, capital planning, engineering, and I do a lot of project management including roofs, equipment replacement and upgrades. I’ve done everything from exterior renovations on a 1909 mansion, to industrial roofs, to installing new boilers. Then the next day, I’m writing a five-year capital plan and working with the Environmental Protection Agency, and external agencies like the city's water department. It’s an interesting role.


I work with FM Global almost on a daily basis in some capacity, either with them or with the information they have provided. They’re involved with us on everything from design and construction to operation of our facilities in all locations. They provide us with really solid guidelines that make projects safer, and less likely to experience loss.


FM Global provides us with very detailed construction and operation standards for equipment within the facility, ranging from roof designs, fire system suppression designs, boiler designs, underground storage tank designs and every aspect of new equipment. FM Global’s standards are always very stringent and detailed and they provide great information for me. When I get a recommendation from FM Global I have confidence because I know it is backed by a large group of subject matter experts.


"FM Global’s knowledge of various geographic areas and business models has been key for us as we move projects forward and look to have successful completion of those projects."


There’s a lot of new activity occurring at the laboratory. Recently, we put into place a builder’s risk program with FM Global to build a new facility in Farmington, Connecticut (USA). There’s always a new building or renovation going on in Bar Harbor. We’re building a new facility in Sacramento (California, USA) as well.


FM Global and the Jackson Laboratory are always working together. FM Global has worked with us on our cryopreservation pision, and Dave Kuchta in our facilities area has been reaching out to FM Global to conduct earthquake shake tests on some of our animal cages. With our Sacramento facility being located in California, there are earthquake considerations. Dave has had discussions about the possibility of having shake tests at the FM Global Research Campus.


FM Global’s experience is key as we expand and grow. Their knowledge of various geographic areas and business models has been key for us as we move so many projects forward and look to have successful completion of those projects.


The relationship between the laboratory and FM Global is probably best exemplified by the lengthy tenure we’ve had with FM Global. It’s been quite a while since we’ve brought them on as a carrier, and that relationship has continued to grow for the better over the years.


Norm Burdzel
Facilities Engineer, The Jackson Laboratory

I handle just about every engineering aspect for the Jackson Laboratory—mechanical, water, sewer, air quality, pellet plant. Whatever people here envision, we make those dreams a reality. I have many facilities projects, and the project requirements are different. Our clean room engineering is beyond any experience you would get anywhere else.


FM Global provides us with checks and balances. You can’t know everything there is to know about every system. I can send a design to FM Global and they have the expertise to say, “You need a higher sprinkler yield,” or “You haven’t fastened this enough.”


"Our FM Global engineer was concerned about items stored near the sprinkler heads. We followed the advice and ended up avoiding a US$100,000 change order. Talk about collaboration! I would never have expected that from an insurance carrier."


We have a master plan for the next 25 years where we look at fire lines and water capacity. I can download FM Global data sheets and that helps me make better assessments. And if you’re getting the data from FM Global, you know it is right.


I’ve always looked at the relationship with FM Global as collaborative. They have a seat at the table; that’s the only way it works. It all comes down to value and the value we get when FM Global helps us to manage our risk.


We were doing some work on the rack sprinkler system at one of our warehouses and our FM Global engineer came out to the facility. He was concerned about items being stored near the sprinkler heads. We ended up averting a US$100,000 change order because of that. Talk about collaboration! It really helps to have that second set of eyes and it’s something I never would have expected from an insurance carrier.


Working with FM Global gives us consistency across the country. We’re moving into California and that is a different world for us. Out there we have a whole different FM Global team, which is very consistent with the service we get here. We’re building in Connecticut and FM Global has helped with the project a great deal, doing on-site inspections to make sure the facility meets their standards. It’s easier to be consistent over three campuses knowing FM Global is there looking over our shoulder. I have nine projects right now and they all go to FM Global for review.


Steve Heckman
Fire Protection Specialist, The Jackson Laboratory

My role at the Jackson Laboratory is to make sure that all fire protection systems are operationally ready at any given time, and basically, to protect the facility from the possibility of fire. Unfortunately, the laboratory had a fire in 1989. It was in our production facility and it was quite devastating. I think that really opened our eyes to the fact that fire can happen to us. Since that time, the laboratory has had a strong drive to protect the facility from another fire.


We have about 875,000 square feet  (81,290 square meters) under roof. A lot of it is broken up over the entire campus, in inpidual buildings. So each building has its own fire protection features. A lot of them are the same, but some of them are more unique, such as the pellet boiler. We actually have a spark-suppression system and other special hazards-type systems in that building to protect that facility. In the last 10 years, the Jackson Laboratory has expanded significantly and that has created a situation where we have to always be thinking ahead to provide fire protection and life safety initiatives.


We have more than 25 separate sprinkler risers and systems, and more than 2,300 operational smoke detectors in use at any given time. All fire protection systems, whether smoke-detection or sprinkler systems, have unique maintenance requirements. Fire protection standards dictate that every single item has to be touched on an annual basis. Working with FM Global, we do testing on a quarterly, monthly and even  a weekly basis. FM Global standards are often more stringent than state requirements, but we know that it’s done right.


For example, FM Global requires drain-testing on a quarterly basis, whereas the NFPA codes and the state codes require drain-testing on an annual basis. With quarterly testing, we can see a drop in water pressure a lot sooner, whereas, if we waited a year, we may have a hazard that could have gone unchecked.


Our mindsets are the same. FM Global realizes that fire can happen. We realize that fire can happen, and it is one of the only natural disasters that is preventable. Recovering from a fire is devastating, on a businesswide or corporatewide scale. It can be devastating not only to the corporation, but also to every single employee that works for them.


I’m passionate about fire protection. I’m an assistant fire chief in a neighboring town. When the FM Global folks show up, you can tell that they’re passionate about property protection and fire protection. I think it’s a very good partnership, because we’re working toward a common goal of protecting the facility from fire.


Jason Adams
Senior Account Manager, FM Global

I work with the Jackson Laboratory’s risk management department to craft insurance products and policies that meet their unique and challenging risk exposures.


We are their property insurance company, but we’re also one of their foremost risk management consultants. They’re using the advice that our engineers are giving them on all aspects of their business. Whether it’s protecting a roof from a windstorm, or preventing significant damage in an earthquake event. We are working collaboratively with them.


For example, their Sacramento (California, USA) facility was constructed within the last 10 years to service their west coast customer base. We worked with them from the very beginning to design a facility that was going to meet their needs and would also be inherently safe.


We are in the midst of a project with them that is utilizing our research staff to test their cage and racking system for the mice. We are building a model to take to our research campus and putting that model on our shake table. They want to understand whether the cages and the mice within the cages will survive an earthquake. They are turning to FM Global to do the earthquake shake table test because we are the only company, at least in the insurance business, that has this technical ability.


In Farmington, Connecticut they are constructing a laboratory to use their mice model to study the human genome. We have been involved with that facility from the very beginning, from the drawings and the planning stages. We’ve had our field engineers reviewing the drawings, making sure that this facility is going to be built to highly protected risk standards.


It is unusual for an insurance company to be involved in the conceptual phase of a new building. What is more typical is the insurance company gets an understanding of the building when it’s fully built. The Jackson Laboratory is doing it this way because this is the way they conduct business with us. We are a partner; we are a valued part of the design and implementation team. We don’t build the facility, but we guide the contractors that do, and that’s what the lab is looking for from us.


One of the great aspects about this relationship is the fact that both of our organizations are steeped in research. FM Global has been around for more than 175 years because of the knowledge base that we provide to customers. The Jackson Laboratory has the same history. They have been serving the healthcare community with their mice models since the 1930s.


They view us as experts in this field of property conservation. They are the experts in creating mice models for research. We are the experts in protecting clients’ property.


Tom Meehan
Senior Engineering Specialist, FM Global

I’m the designated service provider, or DSP, for the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor. I’ve been servicing the facility for about six years and my responsibilities involve loss prevention work and project review for new renovations and construction.


What makes the lab unique is the fact that they house and raise mice in environmentally controlled rooms. It’s critical to maintain things like electrical, heating,  ventilation, and air conditioning. We provide the site with loss prevention services on a whole host of items. It could be facilities hazards, meaning fire, or natural hazards like windstorms. From an equipment hazards standpoint we look at electrical components, maintenance of air conditioning units, boilers, electrical generating equipment, anything that can put them out of business for any significant length of time.


They treat property and loss prevention as a very high priority. They understand the importance of maintaining operations and how all of this plays into it. They understand that these things can adversely impact them.


The Jackson Laboratory at Bar Harbor is very well-aligned with FM Global’s core principles. It’s highly evident in everything they do, from the human element to physical renovations and modifications. They pretty much follow our standards to a “T.” We’ve worked closely together on many loss prevention items over the course of the year. That commitment to loss prevention is evident in pretty much everything they do.


They have solicited our advice quite a bit over the years. Really, it is a true partnership. They want to do the right thing and they really value our input. It’s a real pleasure working in that kind of environment.


I deal with Dave Kuchta, Steve Heckman and others and they are very meticulous. Dave is an ex-Navy nuclear man, who is very particular with regards to record keeping and he’s very much aligned with our core philosophies. He does an outstanding job making sure that everything gets done that needs to be done, in terms of maintenance, inspection, and supervision. Steve is absolutely meticulous as well. He’s like a college professor when it comes to inspection, and testing of alarms and equipment. He’s just so above and beyond what I usually see. They take their jobs very, very seriously and it makes my job a lot easier.


Both organizations have a common goal: to prevent business interruption and property damage. We’ve worked very well as partners over the last several years to achieve that.