CRACK IT Challenge award to improve monitoring of food intake in group housed mice


19 February 2019

In the 2018 Moshers single phase* CRACK IT Challenge £99,382 has been awarded to Research Devices Ltd to develop a new technology to continuously monitor food intake in group housed mice. The Challenge is funded by the NC3Rs and sponsored by MRC Harwell, who will provide testing of the prototype and feedback during the project.

Weight fluctuations in mice are one of the most powerful indicators of animal welfare, and changes in weight are often incorporated into humane endpoints for scientific procedures. The ability to continuously monitor changes in food consumption and intervene before weight loss occurs could provide welfare benefits to thousands of mice used in research by allowing earlier intervention before significant suffering. Detailed feeding data will also increase the knowledge obtained from mouse models used in the study of obesity and metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

Dr Sara Wells, Director of the Mary Lyon Centre, MRC Harwell, said: ‘Current protocols for measuring food intake often involve either disturbing the mice or housing them in solitude in an unfamiliar environment. We are very excited to be able to work on this project to monitor how much a mouse is eating every day. We are aiming to be able to pick up much more subtle indicators of welfare issues or early metabolic phenotypes with more accuracy to guide better animal care and deliver much more relevant data.’

Dr Lawrence Moon, Research Devices, said: ‘We are delighted to be working with MRC Harwell and the NC3Rs. The solution will be compatible with all standard types of racking and cage, including individually ventilated systems. We will provide affordable packages that can monitor just a single cage or up to thousands of cages of rodents in parallel. Users will be able to analyse data remotely using our bespoke system or using their preferred data analysis packages. The goal is to make surveillance of food intake easy, continuous and sensitive, providing a step-change in real-time non-invasive welfare monitoring.’

Dr Cathy Vickers, NC3Rs Head of Innovation, said: ‘This 2018 Challenge award showcases the exciting new technologies and partnerships that are created through CRACK IT. By bringing together the skills of academics and SMEs to solve the R&D challenges faced by Sponsors, the team will develop new approaches that deliver both improved scientific data and real world 3Rs impacts. We are delighted to work with the Moshers team on this project.’

Moshers is one of the three Challenges launched in 2018. Six teams have also been awarded funding (£600k in total) in Phase 1 of the two phase Challenges, ImmuLiver and RaTS, to deliver proof-of-concept projects. Winners of Phase 1 will have the opportunity to apply for Phase 2 where a contract worth up to £1 million will be awarded to one research team to deliver the full Challenge.

Further information about the CRACK IT Challenges Competition process can be found on the CRACK IT website.

*Single phase Challenges require less R&D than two phase Challenges and funding is typically awarded for a maximum of 12 months.