EUMORPHIA (European Union Mouse Research for Public Health and Industrial Applications) was a large project comprising of 18 research centres in 8 European countries. It was funded from October 2002 to March 2006 by the European Commission under its fifth framework programme.
Incorporating the expertise and resources of many European mouse genet ics centres, the main focus of the project was the development of novel approaches in phenotyping, mutagenesis and informat ics to improve the characterisation of mouse models for understanding human molecular physiology and pathology.
EMPReSS – European Mouse Phenotyping Resource for Standardised Screens
EUMORPHIA has developed a new robust primary screening platform for determining the phenotype of mice: EMPReSS – European Mouse Phenotyping Resource for Standardised Screens.
EMPReSS consist of over 100 new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), each validated on a cohort of inbred strains across a number of laboratories. EMPReSS covers all of the major body systems, as well as generic approaches to pathology and gene expression.
EMPReSS could not have been established without extensive European collaboration. It is the first time that a comprehensive set of screens has been developed and grouped together in one coherent platform. It is also the first time that such tests have been standardised and tested for robustness within and between laboratories. It is increasing the competitiveness of European Research and is setting standards for international research.
Further to this work on EMPReSS, the need for a resource to hold phenotype data generated from EMPReSS by centres across Europe has been identified. This is called EuroPhenome and is funded through the PRIME project and is being developed by the MRC in conjunction with GSF, ICS, EMBL and The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. EuroPhenome is set to become the standard for reporting phenotype data and will lead the way with the International Phenome effort. For further information see www.europhenome.eu.
EUMORPHIA also focused on training a new cadre of young scientists. Training posts were established and funding secured to enable the young scientists to go to other laboratories throughout Europe to learn new techniques. The project has also identified the need for more trained mouse pathologists. To address this, we are setting up training courses in pathology and working at a European level to establish more training.
EMPReSS and EuroPhenome will facilitate comparison of data between different laboratories, which will drive down experimental variation, ultimately reducing the cost of mouse research. Most importantly, the use of validated SOPs will also reduce the number of mice used in research.
The availability of new standardised screens and associated informatics structures and tools will be a vital underpinning for a systematic and rational functional annotation of the mouse genome and a necessary step in improving the mouse as a tool in biological studies and drug discovery.
The work accomplished by the EUMORPHIA consortium, including the EMPReSS database, will benefit all researchers that study the mouse as a model for human disease. These benefits will not only have a direct palpable impact on the “mouse community”, but also translate into benefits for the entire biomedical community, which increasingly relies on the use of mouse models to understand complex physiological problems.