£4.8m funding awarded for smart approaches to reduce animal use in science

NC3Rs grants will develop new testing methods, infrastructure and technologies.

Work to replace and reduce animal use in science and improve animal welfare has today received a £4.8m funding boost with the award of 20 research and technology development grants to universities, specialist institutes and small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Novel methods being funded by the UK's National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) will reduce reliance on a range of animal species and accelerate the discovery of treatments across several therapeutic areas. These include an alternative method for anti-cancer drug development to replace the use of millions of mice globally, the development of an entirely new way of studying tuberculosis infection by using human cells, and a 3D cell model of the bovine airway which uses abattoir material to study bovine respiratory diseases, the cause of around 30% of cattle deaths worldwide.

As part of the allocation, £1.3m of strategic funding goes towards improving the infrastructure for UK bioscience whilst reducing animal use in areas such as breast cancer and trauma research. This includes the setting-up of collaborative networks to share and analyse data, and a multi-user, multi-centre magnetic resonance imaging initiative. Infrastructure funding is also provided for an e-learning tool to improve training in laboratory animal anaesthesia and perioperative care.

£1.25m is awarded through the NC3Rs CRACK IT Challenges programme, which funds commercial technology development in response to major animal research challenges faced by industry and academia..

Through this programme, a novel project with Edinburgh-based SME Actual Analytics Ltd has received funding to develop a mouse cage with an integrated 'big brother-style video monitoring system, which will record specific types of behaviour and allow for social interaction in mice being studied for nervous system disorders.

The automated, non-surgical system will improve animal welfare for this type of research since animal handling and other interventions would be greatly reduced. It will also allow for monitoring of individual mice when housed together in their natural grouping, rather than individually, producing more reliable results compared with current observational methods.

Today's funding announcement coincides with the appointment of the new NC3Rs Board Chairman, asthma expert Professor Stephen Holgate CBE, University of Southampton.

Commenting on this year's grant awards and his appointment, Professor Holgate said: "These awards demonstrate the ingenuity of the UK's scientific sector to develop smart approaches which reduce the reliance on animal use and further improve welfare practices across many different research areas. I am greatly looking forward to continuing my work with the NC3Rs over the next five years in this new capacity and driving forward the vital work to replace, reduce and refine animal use in science."

Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, said: "This funding from the NC3Rs to support research, infrastructure and technology development is vital to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of international efforts to reduce animal use in science while seeking breakthroughs in treating serious disease."

The Medical Research Council (MRC) is the major core funder of the NC3Rs, Professor Sir John Savill, Chief Executive, MRC, said: "The use of animals in research is still vitally important and the MRC only funds research where proper consideration has been given to the replacement, refinement or reduction of animal use in a study's design. The work of the NC3Rs provides the highest quality research into how to achieve these criteria and we have been and will continue to be a major funder of their work."

"The appointment of Professor Stephen Holgate is great news.  Stephen's commitment and drive is well known to the MRC, not least for the way in which he expertly chaired our Population and Systems Medicine Board."

 

Notes to Editors

For further information please contact the NC3Rs media office.

NC3Rs project and pilot study grants are made possible by core funding from the MRC and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

1. Pilot study grants:

  • Dr Catherina Becker, University of Edinburgh: Finding effective analgesics in zebrafish by analysing effects on the nervous system (CNS), £73,177.
  • Dr Emily Bethell, Liverpool John Moores University: Attention Bias: a novel method to assess psychological wellbeing in group-housed non-human primates, £74,434.
  • Dr Bertrand Collet, Marine Scotland Science: Novel approaches to immortalise salmon fish cells, £74,863.
  • Dr Andrew Devitt, Aston University: Towards an in vitro system of predictive biomarkers of in vivo liposome efficacy, £74,626.
  • Dr Julia Edgar, University of Glasgow: Development of an in vitro screening system to minimise animal use in the search for factors that modulate (re)myelination, £74,074.
  • Dr Gyorgy Fejer, University of Plymouth: Establishment of non-transformed, continuously growing, alternatively activated mouse macrophage cell lines, £74,997.
  • Dr Samuel Solomon, University College London: Reducing the number of non-human primates in research by developing a rodent model of selective attention, £73,290.
  • Dr Liku Tezera, University of Southampton: Investigating tuberculosis by engineering human granulomas, £75,000.
  • Dr David Weinkove, Durham University and University of Strathclyde: Using C. elegans to produce proteins from parasitic nematodes for research and therapeutic use, £74,993.

2. Project grants:

  • Dr Robert Davies, University of Glasgow and The Pirbright Institute: A three-dimensional air-liquid interface airway epithelial cell model to study pathogen interactions within the bovine respiratory tract, £397,540.
  • Dr Manolis Fanto, King’s College London: Drosophila as a model to understand the role of glial cells in neurodegeneration, £313,790.
  • Dr Julius Hafalla, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: 3Rs of murine models of malaria infection - immunology meets experimental genetics, £300,000.
  • Professor Ian MacKenzie, Queen Mary, University of London: Replacement of murine transplantation assays by 3-dimensional in vitro substitutes for the assessment of therapeutic responses of cancer stem cells, £342,090.
  • Professor Maria Spillantini, University of Cambridge: Applying the 3Rs to elucidate the mechanisms of tau pathology using DRG neurons in culture, £305,034.

3. Infrastructure for Impact awards:

  • Professor Paul Flecknell, Newcastle University: Training and teaching resources to underpin implementation of refinement of in vivo studies, £63,582

  • Professor Malcolm Macleod, University of Edinburgh: The CAMARADES-NC3Rs in vivo systematic review and meta-analysis facility, £492,825.

  • Dr John Marshall, Queen Mary, University of London: Multi-user multi-centre MRI to reduce and refine the use of mice in cancer and trauma research, £250,000.

  • Professor Valerie Speirs, University of Leeds: SEARCHbreast - a virtual resource to facilitate sharing breast cancer materials and knowledge to benefit the 3Rs, £497,662.

5. CRACK IT Challenges:

  • Professor Douglas Armstrong, Actual Analytics Ltd, Edinburgh: Rodent Little Brother - Measurement of mouse activity, behaviour and interaction in the home cage, £500,000. Supported by MRC Harwell.
  • Professor Pieters Raymond, Utrecht University, The Netherlands: PREDART - Prediction of human developmental and reproductive toxicity through non-mammalian assays, £750,000. Supported by Syngenta and Shell.

About the NC3Rs:

The NC3Rs is an independent scientific organisation which leads on the discovery, development and promotion of new ways to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research and testing (the 3Rs). It is supported primarily by Government, but also receives funding from the charitable and industrial sectors. The Centre has awarded £40.6m since 2005.

About CRACK IT:

CRACK IT is a collaborative programme from the NC3Rs to support and fund the development of marketable products that have an impact on business and the 3Rs. CRACK IT is formed of two initiatives. CRACK IT Challenges solve scientific and business problems identified by the biosciences sector. CRACK IT Solutions connect technology developers with new partners, users and markets. CRACK IT was launched in 2011 and has since awarded £5.9m. CRACK IT phase 1 awards are made possible by core funding from the Technology Strategy Board’s SBRI Programme.

About Professor Stephen T Holgate CBE, FMedSci

Stephen qualified in Medicine at Charing Cross Hospital Medical School in London, UK. After completing his postgraduate training he moved to Southampton to establish a research group focused on the causes and treatment of allergies, asthma and related airway disorders. He was appointed an MRC Clinical Professor in 1987 and has published over 970 peer reviewed papers and edited 60 books on asthma and allied disorders. His current citation h Index is 133. He is Chairman of the UK National Allergy Strategy Group, Board member of the World Allergy Organisation, was until 2012, Chair Clinical of the UK Medical Research Council Population Systems Board. He is current Chair of Main Panel A of the UK Research Excellence Framework 2014 for evaluating research in Medical, Health and Life Sciences in UK Universities, Member of the Medical Science Committee of Science Europe and Chair of the European Respiratory Society Scientific Committee.

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