WA lab animal supplier set to be wound up

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Australia's major supplier of lab rats and mice for medical research is set to be wound up by the West Australian government.

The Animal Resources Centre will close by December 2022, having operated on Perth's Murdoch University campus since 1988.

Its closure will affect 61 full-time equivalent staff.

The centre was established by state parliament as a self-funding statutory authority and has since become a major breeder and supplier of disease-free lab rats and mice, serving customers across Australia and overseas.

In an email to customers last week, ARC acting chief executive Kirsty Moynihan said the centre would wind up over the next 12 to 18 months.

"This decision has been made on the basis that it is not able to operate in a financially self-sustaining manner, as required by legislation," she wrote.

"In addition, the ARC is required to vacate its current premises at Murdoch University."

Ms Moynihan directed a request for further comment to Health Minister Roger Cook.

A spokeswoman for Mr Cook said the centre had been suffering declining sales and was "not financially viable".

"Under its Act, the ARC is required to be operated in a financially self-sustaining manner," she said.

"However, the WA government has repeatedly been required to step-in and make financial contributions to the ARC in order to cover costs."

In recent history, only about 16 per cent of the centre's production had gone to WA research institutions, the spokeswoman said.

"The majority of the animal stock sold is supplied to interstate and overseas markets for medical research at a loss - effectively being subsidised by WA taxpayers."

In its annual report last year, the ARC said its land lease at Murdoch University had been an issue for almost a decade and was preventing the centre from investing in upgrades which would reduce expenses and improve profitability.

The university has been contacted for comment.

Consultant veterinarian Malcolm France, the inaugural president of the Australian and New Zealand Laboratory Animal Association, said the closure would have major implications for Australia's medical research programs.

He said the careful genetic monitoring involved in the highly specialised breeding was "very demanding".

"ARC has always maintained the highest standards in these aspects of their breeding programs and I can't see how this can be replaced," Dr France said.

Legislation to wind up the ARC is expected to be introduced in the August sitting of parliament.

Staff will be given redeployment and redundancy options.

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