UK commitment to discovering laboratory methods that reduce the reliance on animal use and improve animal welfare (known as the 3Rs) is stronger than ever before. Evidence is contained in our latest Annual Report, which is published today.
Dr Vicky Robinson, Chief Executive NC3Rs, said: "2011 has been a special year for the NC3Rs. We have built on our previous work, to place activities to minimise the use of animals at the heart of the biosciences. We have reached a tipping point the 3Rs are no longer a marginal activity but are now supported by some of the UK's best scientists and leading organisations."
"Just one example is the stunning uptake by scientific journals of our ARRIVE guidelines to improve the design, analysis and reporting of animal experiments. At the beginning of 2011 there were 14 journals signed up. Today there are 81, including some of the best, high impact journals. Publication is the life blood of science and this alone is an important step forward in embedding the 3Rs in day-to-day research."
Further evidence that the UK is buying into the 3Rs as never before is the success of CRACK IT, a groundbreaking open innovation programme from the NC3Rs, launched last September by David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science.
"We have worked with major UK companies, from AstraZeneca to Unilever, to identify key scientific challenges that, if solved, could reduce animal use and improve business efficiency and effectiveness. Solving the challenges, which include developing new ways to study human diseases, will require innovative solutions from a range of disciplines. We have facilitated this through a new 'Dragons' Den' style research competition targeting the SME and academic sectors. The response has been fantastic. We have funded five new consortia who will receive substantial funding from the NC3Rs and in-kind support from the challenge sponsors," said Dr Robinson.
The Minister, David Willetts said: "The Government is committed to using scientific advances to replace, reduce and refine animal use wherever possible. The NC3Rs is playing a vital role in this by building links between the life sciences industry and the research base to help identify challenges and develop innovative alternatives to animal testing. It's very encouraging to see that this is making an impact across the sector with the involvement of some of the UK's leading life sciences companies."
Another positive indicator for the state of health of the 3Rs in the UK today is the record interest in the Centre's annual 3Rs Prize, sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, to recognise research excellence.
On presenting the 2011 3Rs Prize, Professor Paul Matthews OBE of GlaxoSmithKline commented: "The quantity and quality of entries was outstanding and the judging panel had a tough time in selecting the winner. In the end, we decided to award two highly commended prizes as well. The overall winner was Dr Ludovic Vallier of the University of Cambridge whose innovative study describes the development and validation of a method to produce cells similar to those in a human liver. Such cells could replace animals for some types of early drug testing and could also help us to predict adverse clinical reactions. Using these cells for drug testing could be transformative. Ludovic and his colleagues have well illustrated how addressing the 3Rs converges with improving the quality of science."