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Investment in alternatives to animal research rises for fifth consecutive year

11 September 2008

The NC3Rs announced funding of £2.6 million for ten new projects1 that aim to replace, reduce or refine the use of animals in research and testing, today (11 September 2008). This is the fifth consecutive year that the Centre’s investment in research has increased. The latest funding includes projects which aim to develop treatments for diseases and conditions ranging from heart disease to spinal cord injury. BBSRC is one of the main funders of the NC3Rs.

One of the grants announced today is awarded to Professor Sue Barnett, University of Glasgow, to develop an in vitro model of spinal cord injury that could replace the use of rats in the testing of new therapies to promote the repair of spinal cord injuries in man.

Professor Barnett said: "The spinal cord has little capacity for self-repair and if it is damaged then permanent disability and paralysis are almost certain. Spinal cord injuries cost the health service an estimated £500m a year and there is an urgent need to find treatments. One treatment which is showing promise is the use of cell transplantation, however for this to be truly effective it seems likely that it needs to be combined with other treatments such as the use of growth factors. Testing these combined treatments uses large numbers of animals and the aim of our project is to develop a cell culture model which allows us to screen potential treatments without using animals."

Another scientist receiving funding is Professor Andrew Cossins, University of Liverpool, who aims to increase the predictive power of laboratory-based tests so they could replace the use of large numbers of fish in toxicity testing.

Professor Cossins said: "European legislation requires chemicals to be tested to ensure that they are safe for humans and the environment. Many of the tests require the use of fish in studies that are likely to cause suffering. Some work has been done to use alternative methods such as fish cells and embryos but these need to be improved if the use of live fish is to be replaced. Our aim is to improve these methods using new high-tech tools to study the impact of chemicals on an unprecedentedly large number of genes, so that they can be used to provide better information on the toxicity of chemicals. This could ultimately replace the use of up to 100,000 fish per year in the EU.”

Dr Vicky Robinson, chief executive of the NC3Rs, said: "I am delighted that we have been able to use the new money we have received from the Government to increase our investment in research. In just five years, our funding scheme has developed into a highly competitive funding stream attracting very high quality proposals, from leading UK scientists and institutions. We have now awarded a total of £8 million and we are starting to see the results of this in terms of reducing the number of animals used, improving animal welfare and supporting research to understand and develop treatments for human diseases."

Six of the projects are primarily aimed at replacing the use of animals, two at reduction and two at refinement. There were also two priority areas in this year’s funding scheme. The first was replacement, refinement and reduction in fish (3 of the grants are in this priority), and the second was refinement in rodent husbandry, care and procedures (2 of the grants are in this priority).


Notes to editors

  1. Full abstracts for the projects are available on request. The project titles, recipients, and the amounts awarded are as follows:
    • Professor Sue Barnett, University of Glasgow (£294,404)
      The development of an in vitro model of CNS injury to identify factors which promote repair
    • Professor Andrew Cossins, University of Liverpool (£512,584)
      Development of a mechanistically informative genome-wide, in vitro chemicals screening technology
    • Dr Atticus Hainsworth, St George’s London (£43,288)
      Carotid artery endothelial growth: a novel in vitro assay
    • Dr Ioanna Katsiadaki, Cefas (£398,640)
      Validating a sexual development test using the 3-spined stickleback for addressing the 3Rs in fish toxicity testing
    • Professor Robert Newbold, Brunel University (£299,052)
      Development and validation of mechanisms-based in vitro transformation assays for carcinogen screening
    • Dr Keith Redhead, Intervet (£26,988)
      Replacement in vitro assays for the quantification of clostridial vaccine antigens
    • Dr Paul Simons, University College London (£302,128)
      Inducible SAA transgenic mice: a refined model of human amyloidosis
    • Professor Phil Stephens, Cardiff University (£243,624)
      Establishment and validation of a stable, cell-based diabetic wound bioassay
    • Dr Siouxsie Wiles, Imperial College London (£270,784)
      Reduction and refinement of murine models of bacterial infection
    • Dr Jun Zou, University of Aberdeen (£254,548)
      Development of leucocyte cell lines for immunological research in teleost fish
  2. The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) is an independent, scientific organisation which finds innovative solutions to:
    • Replace animals in research with non-animal alternatives
    • Reduce the number of animals used in experiments
    • Refine scientific procedures and animal husbandry to minimise suffering

    The NC3Rs drives advances in the 3Rs by taking a robust scientific approach, and bringing together expertise from a diverse range of areas, including academia, industry, government and regulatory bodies.

    The Centre funds high-quality research, organises workshops and symposia to disseminate and advance the 3Rs, and develops information resources and guidelines. It is an independent organisation, set up by the Government in 2004, and reporting to the Science Minister and stakeholders through the publication of an annual report, and is funded by the Medical Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Home Office, the Wellcome Trust, the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Syngenta, The Dow Chemical Company, SC Johnson, and Unilever. More information can be found on the NC3Rs website:

  3. In December 2007, Ian Pearson MP, Minister of State for Science and Innovation, announced that under the Government's comprehensive spending review, the Centre's funding from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) via the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) would increase from just over £2 million per year for 2007/08 to just over £5 million in 2010/11.
Comprehensive spending review breakdown of figures
2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11
MRC £1,815,000 £2,640,000 £3,240,000 £3,840,000
BBSRC £553,000 £828,000 £1,028,000 £1,228,000

External contact

Tim Watson, Communications Manager, NC3Rs
tel: 020 7670 5265, mob: 07866 288456


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382