Using mathematics to meet the challenge of reducing animal experiments

We have announced four new grants totalling nearly £750k for research to replace and reduce the use of animals in toxicity tests by using novel mathematical approaches.

These multidisciplinary awards combine the expertise of mathematicians, computer modellers and toxicologists to develop new methods that can minimise the use of animals in toxicity tests conducted on chemicals and pharmaceuticals. All of the awards have an industrial partner from the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors, with companies providing data and other in-kind contributions.

One of the awards, to Dr Gary Mirams at the University of Oxford, tackles a major problem in drug development which is predicting the side effects a drug may have on the heart. Currently new drugs have to be tested in animals to determine whether they will cause a disturbance in the heart's rhythm, which can be fatal. These experiments are typically conducted in guinea pigs or dogs and involve thousands of animals each year, whilst being accurate in only 70% of cases. Dr Mirams will use data collected from previous animal tests and human clinical trials to develop a computer simulation which will be able to predict whether a drug will cause adverse effects on the heart without using animal tests.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) jointly funded this call with the NC3Rs in recognition of the novel mathematics being used.

EPSRC Chief Executive, Professor David Delpy said: "These awards highlight the important role mathematicians can have in addressing significant biological challenges. They show that collaboration is the best way of pooling expertise to tackle a problem, gaining different perspectives and developing truly novel approaches."

NC3Rs Chief Executive, Dr Vicky Robinson said: "Around 400,000 animals are used in toxicity testing in the UK each year and millions more worldwide. Minimising the use of animals in research and testing has become a global effort. Success will ultimately depend on the bioscience sector working with experts from a range of disciplines including mathematicians and engineers and these new awards are an excellent example of this in practice. The awards will provide the foundations for reducing the use of thousands of animals in toxicity testing."

The latest awards bring the NC3Rs investment since 2004 to over £30 million on 135 different grants.


Information on the projects:

Dr Michael Chappell, University of Warwick
Structural identifiability and indistinguishability analysis as tools for quantitative and systems pharmacology to support the 3Rs  

Dr John Paul Gosling, University of Leeds
Uncertainty and confidence in applying mathematical models and in vitro data in toxicological safety assessments

Dr Gary Mirams, University of Oxford
Prediction of human cardiotoxic QT prolongation using in vitro multiple ion channel data and mathematical models of cardiac myocytes

Dr Jonathan Pitchford, University of York
Imprecision and importance: Probabilistic graphical models in toxicology


Related Documents

Mathematics in toxicology media release (PDF, 43KB)

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