UA Startup Licenses Cage Divider Technology to Optimize Small Animal Welfare

Monday, June 26, 2017
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Tucson, Ariz. – The University of Arizona has licensed a UA-invented small animal cage divider design to startup Helm Technologies. Associate Professor and Director of Translational Neurotrauma Research Jonathan Lifshitz, Ph.D., of the UA College of Medicine  Phoenix and Phoenix Children’s Hospital Research Laboratory Manager Bret Tallent invented the device.                                                                                                                                                    

Tech Launch Arizona, the office of the UA that commercializes inventions stemming from University research, collaborated with the inventing team to protect the intellectual property and build the leadership team. 

Small animals in lab situations – and small pets such as mice, gerbils or rats kept in cages – may fight for a multitude of reasons, whether it be for dominance, resources, territory, breeding, or aberrant behavior. Data has shown that the presence of the new cage divider reduces aggression, thus improving animal welfare.

Tallent and Lifshitz created the divider, which provides each animal their own space as well as a common area to socialize and play.

"We wanted a simple solution that would not change the size or design of the cage itself,” says Tallent. “Furthermore, it could not impact our or the animal caretaker’s ability to observe the animals.”

According to Tallent, the divider emulates a more natural burrow-like environment with separated as well as common spaces, allowing for proper social cues and minimizing chances of a dysfunctional social hierarchy. Use of the divider resulted in a 50 to 90 percent reduction in the display of non-wounding aggressive behaviors between group-housed male mice.

Earlier this year, the Helm Technologies team went through the NSF I-Corps program at the UA. Through the three-week program, team learned about lean startup methods and gained a more intimate understanding of their target customers.

“Considering the importance of animal research in the biological sciences, there is a great need for this kind of solution,” says Associate Director for Biomedical and Life Sciences Licensing Rakhi Gibbons. “We’re excited to have a role in bringing it to the marketplace.”

Paul Tumarkin
Senior Manager, Marketing & Communications