FAQ

At first impression, vivarium management may seem overwhelming and resource-draining. Where and how to start? Our role at Explora is to ease that concern by addressing each and every inquiry with detailed solutions.

General Explora Process Questions

For Small Biotechs: The most expensive real estate per square foot in any life sciences building is the vivarium. It ranges from $600–$800 per square foot when all costs are fully captured for the tenant improvement or capital costs. The 24/7/365 operational and regulatory burden that comes with managing a vivarium is overwhelming for most science-focused companies.

While this investment in real estate and infrastructure might make sense for a well-capitalized, commercial-grade pharmaceutical company with a 15- to 20-year time horizon, it makes little sense for startups (whose average lifespan is 3–4 years) to burn their expensive, milestone-driven venture capital on a 15-year fixed asset.

For Larger Biotechs and Pharma: These organizations increasingly drive innovation and discovery through investments in smaller, compound-driven companies like those already inside our facilities. Being in close proximity to them makes sense. Post-investment, the collective timeline to deliver therapeutic value is even shorter: 2–3 years is not unusual. Working with Explora to block out a suite of rooms may make more sense for even a large, well-capitalized pharma company testing a new (or old) therapeutic concept.

Larger organizations also utilize our OnSite services as a solution for supplemental study overflow, separation of species, separation of studies, and contingency planning.

This is a common occurrence and one that we anticipate. Explora BioLabs is accustomed to clients whose projects grow or downsize. Our abundance of research space means we can accommodate those needs as they arise.

If you need to make study or support adjustments, simply reach out to your Explora project coordinator. He or she can discuss your needs with you and help you plan and budget when you see parameters shifting—without stress.

Explora BioLabs clients can also take advantage of our Preferred Provider Network. Explora clients receive best-rate pricing on contract research and business support services from the Network’s member organizations.

Explora BioLabs’ OnDemand and OnSite vivarium solutions currently use Innovive rack and cage products. 

We have access to a variety of caging lids suited to all types of research. Each has a HEPA-filtered system and is made of 100% high-viscosity PET, BPA-free, recyclable plastic, with a patented thin-wall lightweight caging. They come to us double bagged, fully irradiated, and ready to use.

The caging we use allows us to quickly and easily provide clean, fresh caging for our animals. This reduces animal stress while keeping the science accurate and repeatable because sterilization is never a concern.

Space-wise, this means we do not need the large, resource-draining cleaning facilities that come from reusing the same cages. The real estate, water, and electricity demands are dramatically lower than with other alternatives. It frees up staffing to focus on more important matters, like caring for the animals and staying on schedule with observation, data-gathering, and science. Additionally, you can house BSL-1 and BSL-2 (immunocompetent/immunocompromised) animals on the same rack—no separate room is needed. This can save you even more space.

Yes! As an Explora BioLabs client, you have the option to move your studies from one OnDemand facility to another. We currently have 18 facilities:

  • 10 in San Diego
  • 7 in San Francisco
  • 1 in Boston
  • And we continue to expand


Additionally, our technician staff is trained to coordinate with a reputable courier, order shipping supplies, and pack and unpack the animals on your behalf. What’s more, when moving between Explora-run facilities that are under our IACUC, there is no downtime lost to quarantine.

Yes! Explora BioLabs offers quarantine in each biotech hub that Explora has a network (San Diego, San Francisco, and Boston). When you are moving from one Explora-run vivarium to another that operates under our IACUC, there is no downtime for quarantine. If you are moving your animals from a non-Explora vivarium to one of our facilities, then we can offer you our quarantine space.

One of the most common ways to assess the health of rodent colonies in a research environment is through the use of “sentinel animals.” Sentinel animals are independent of research colonies; they are used to test for pathogens in a research environment. A “sentinel program,” therefore, monitors the health status of animals to prevent, detect, and control the presence of pathogens that can negatively affect animal health and research.

Explora BioLabs uses a sentinel program in each of its OnDemand vivarium facilities. Sentinel monitoring is also featured in each OnSite client private facility that we manage and service. This allows us to monitor for the presence of pathogens, helps ensure the health of our clients’ rodents, and better protects the integrity of your research.

Explora BioLabs provides AAALAC-accredited, Ph.D.-backed, preclinical vivarium solutions for biotechnology and pharmaceutical clients of all sizes and stages of development. We support innovative, important in vivo studies with turnkey vivarium facilities, management, and related industry-leading services—what we call Vivarium-as-a-Service® (VaaS) solutions.

VaaS solutions are designed to get in vivo studies up and running in as little as two weeks. They’re an efficient use of capital funding, and a wide range of flexible options means VaaS services expand or contract as researchers’ operations evolve

Yes! Explora BioLabs provides complete flexibility. You can increase or decrease the technician services you receive for a variety of study support needs as you require.

OnDemand Vivarium Facility + Service Questions

Explora BioLabs’ OnDemand vivarium facilities feature efficient, equipped vivaria rodent rooms ready for you to step into very quickly. You can have a private room(s) or share a room and rack space with other biotechs (in select facilities). In general, hallways are shared with other clients.

Explora BioLabs’ OnDemand rooms average two to three Innovive racks for a total capacity of 350–525 cages. Adjacent procedural rooms can be arranged (if available); some facilities have shared procedure rooms to which all shared tenants have access.

Explora BioLabs takes care of the animal husbandry and provides racks, cages, and PPE so that you can focus on your studies. We can even help there—in many facilities, Explora BioLabs offers technical hands to support your needs or cover a shift, leave of absence, holiday, or fundraising periods in which the team’s efforts are focused elsewhere. Our role is to allow you to move faster into repeatable, high-quality science.

Vivarium-as-a-Service™ means you can flex our menu of Ph. D.-backed services as you need them.

The goal of many small biotechs is to get acquired by larger biotech and pharma companies as their research produces positive repeatable data. Large acquiring companies typically request study data conducted within an AAALAC-accredited setting. Unnecessary time can be wasted if you need to go back to reconduct studies not previously run under AAALAC. This is a key reason why all of our Explora vivarium facilities are AAALAC-accredited. It immediately checks an important consideration box for our small biotech clients when they are being considered for acquisition.

Explora provides a mix of equipment including individually-ventilated rack/cage systems, biosafety cabinets/hoods, change tables, basic facility equipment, and PPE. Some of our facilities offer IVIS imaging machines as well.

Explora currently offers vivarium space and services for mice and rats. We do not have lab and rack space for other, larger animal species.

Yes! Explora BioLabs’ Preferred Provider Network includes a wide variety of mouse and rat model procurement options. We can place orders, manage the receipt of animals, and provide animal husbandry care services after they arrive. Simply let us know your animal needs during sign-up.

No. Explora BioLabs allows clients to secure a half-rack of space in some of our shared holding rooms.

Our goal is to protect the integrity of your research. Overcrowding in vivarium holding rooms is a real consideration that our clients make when choosing a vivarium to conduct their studies. If you have multiple companies renting by-the-row rack space, it can mean double or more clients working in a single room, over or below your own racks. We minimize the chances of introducing unwanted pathogens. We promote research continuity.

Clients can conduct BSL-1 and BSL-2 rodent studies in Explora BioLabs’ vivarium facilities. We will help you gain IACUC approval for either type. If you start with one type and want to contract out another, you can use our local contract research services (San Diego, San Francisco, and Boston) to support the second study for you.

Explora offers some of the fastest study initiation times in the industry. While there are various factors that can slow your start, we often can get you to study initiation within two weeks in an OnDemand vivarium facility. In as little as three weeks, we can have you up and running, fully compliant, in your private vivarium.

Explora BioLabs manages this through a combination of processes refined over nearly two decades of providing turnkey vivarium solutions, having experienced technical staff at the ready, and having rapid equipment turnaround (up to 75% faster than self-placed orders). We provide Innovive racks and cages, biosafety cabinets, and PPE. From IACUC approval to ordering your animals, we help you move quickly.

Explora BioLabs offers:

  • Shared holding rooms
  • Shared procedure rooms
  • Private/exclusive holding rooms
  • Private/exclusive procedure rooms
  • Private suites

Our facilities also offer shared necropsy rooms.

Your comfort and confidence matter to us. We start by securing access to all external and internal room entry points with individually tracked access badges. Private holding and procedure rooms are only accessible by you and your team. Shared rooms can only be accessed by clients that are assigned to that room. All clients sign legal confidentiality agreements when they onboard to an OnDemand facility.

Protecting the integrity of the culture and community at each facility is important to us. To help us achieve this, we take history and research experience factors into consideration prior to allowing the use of our space.

Yes! In private holding and procedure rooms, you are welcome to introduce any type of equipment necessary for your in vivo studies. For shared spaces, we kindly ask that clients are mindful of others when introducing equipment.

OnSite (Client-Owned) Service Questions

Yes! Providing OnSite services for private vivariums is a key part of what Explora BioLabs does. In fact, nearly 30% of the total vivarium square footage that we manage is for clients who have their own facilities.

Yes! We can provide the racking, caging, logistics, staffing for basic husbandry, and even IACUC oversight—all customized to your individual OnSite needs.

Explora BioLabs has nearly two decades of experience in designing, planning, and programming efficient and capital-conscious vivariums. We understand the design and structural efficiencies needed for consistent, long-term operations. That’s why we offer our OnSite clients complimentary vivarium design and programming services and overall project management during facility construction—what we call Vivarium-in-a-Box®.

Explora BioLabs commonly acts as your vivarium manager, eliminating the need for you to hire an internal employee for the role. However, in cases where your vivarium manager is also conducting research, it makes sense for them to continue their work.

Yes! Explora BioLabs can consult with clients to assist them in securing AAALAC accreditation for their private vivarium facility.

Explora BioLabs’ OnSite technicians operate on a rotating schedule to guarantee consistent coverage. Additionally, techs are onsite only when they need to be for a service. Once the daily tasks have been completed, the tech is on to the next location. We are there only when we need to be.

Yes! As an Explora BioLabs OnSite Vivarium-as-a-Service® client, you have easy access to our contract research and technician support services. You can secure à-la-carte or full supplemental study support for a variety of services including dosing, tumor measurement, tissue collection, blood draws, and more.

Explora BioLabs provides local technician and contract research in each of the biotech market hubs we are in (San Diego, San Francisco, and Boston). Many of our existing OnSite clients use these services to handle study overflow, separate species, and to plan for contingencies and relocation with Explora’s nationwide network of AAALAC-accredited OnDemand vivarium facilities. We also have a growing Preferred Provider Network that offers additional contract research and business support services beyond those we offer internally. These Preferred Partners give Explora BioLabs clients best-rate pricing and pre-negotiated discounts regardless of whether you use one or multiple partners in the network.

Regulatory Compliance Questions

An Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) is an independent committee that oversees experimental study designs to ensure that animal research is both necessary and humane. Because Explora BioLabs is an AAALAC-accredited institution, and because we are fully committed to animal welfare, all research activities involving animals need to be reviewed and approved by an IACUC. Not to worry: Explora BioLabs helps you design and process your study protocol and subsequent amendments for IACUC review.

Many experimental designs (such as PK studies) fit into the parameters of our pre-approved protocols and can be approved very quickly: one to two weeks for study protocol, one to two days for amendments. Unique programs may need to be reviewed by Explora BioLabs’s full IACUC committee, which meets at least once a month.

IACUC approvals are valid for three years.

Contract Research Questions

Whether you’re already in the Explora BioLabs network or not, our services are scalable. We have worked with all sizes of organizations, from startups to industry giants, so if you are just starting out, we can help you understand the road ahead of you—and help you get where you need to go. In fact, our staffing depth and extensive experience mean we are the perfect solution for your needs because we bring insights gained from years of hands-on involvement in the biotech world of preclinical trials and contract research services.

Explora BioLabs can do better than that: we can probably provide this service for you!

Whether you need surgical expertise for an extended duration or just a couple of times a month, we are prepared to provide animal technical services of all kinds.

Once you contact us, our project coordinator will discuss your project with you and provide a service agreement for your review. Once the agreement is signed by both parties, our project coordinator will work with you to design your experiments and develop a budget. The study protocol and cost will be included in a formal quote for your approval. Once the quotation is approved by you, we can schedule and proceed with your experiment.

Contract research studies can typically be initiated within two weeks. Explora BioLabs has designed all of its service lines with the early-stage biotech in mind. We understand that time and flexibility are key to your success. A speedy study initiation period, for instance, is imperative to the emerging biotech looking to establish preliminary data. From the time we receive a signature and an approved protocol to study initiation, you are looking at a two-week turnaround time.

Yes! Explora BioLabs is happy to amend protocols mid-study (e.g., changing the endpoints after reviewing promising data). We require 48 hours’ notice prior to amendments.

Exciting News

Explora BioLabs Acquired by Charles River Laboratories, Inc.

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