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Record amount awarded for research to reduce animal experiments and improve animal welfare

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26 July 2012

The NC3Rs has today announced 21 new grants totalling £5.1 million for research to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in science - referred to as 'the 3Rs'. This is the largest single allocation of funding ever made for 3Rs research in the UK.

The latest funding is for projects that will find new ways to advance the 3Rs in a wide range of research programmes in which animals are used, from the causes of cancer and liver fibrosis to understanding the transmission of influenza virus and the effect of drugs on bone formation during osteoporosis. Many of the projects involve multi-disciplinary teams, with biologists working with computational and mathematical modellers through to animal behaviour experts collaborating with neuroscientists.

Much of the new research focuses on developing and utilising cutting edge techniques, such as a novel nebuliser and cell culture system that will replace ferrets used for influenza research, and adapting MR Elastography, a non-invasive imaging technology which measures the elasticity of tissues, to take heart function measurements in rodents. Innovative approaches will also be used to assess the welfare of non-human primates used in neuroscience research, including measuring the changes in the length of the ends of chromosomes in white blood cells as a novel marker of chronic stress.

A record amount has been awarded this year, after additional contributions from the core funders of the NC3Rs - the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

NC3Rs Chief Executive, Dr Vicky Robinson said "The awards will ensure the UK continues to lead the world in developing new ways to minimise the use of animals in research and testing and improve animal welfare. We are extremely grateful to the BBSRC and MRC for making available another £1.9 million so that the NC3Rs could fund an additional six key projects. I am impressed by the diverse projects that we have selected for funding, which demonstrate the commitment to the 3Rs by some of the UK's leading scientific teams."

Dr Tony Peatfield, MRC Director of Corporate Affairs said "I am very pleased that the MRC has been able to provide additional support to the NC3Rs to boost the number of high quality applications it has been able to award this year. The NC3Rs continues to demonstrate that 3Rs research not only benefits animals but can also result in new discoveries that may ultimately benefit patients."

This year the NC3Rs had a joint call with the BBSRC for research proposals to develop new ways of measuring and assessing animal welfare, with the NC3Rs considering those proposals involving laboratory animals, and the BBSRC those involving livestock and companion animals. The BBSRC provided an additional £900k to the NC3Rs to allow eight awards to be made by the NC3Rs totalling more than £2.3 million. In addition, the BBSRC will be awarding approximately £3.8 million to eight projects looking at livestock and companion animals.

BBSRC Chief Executive, Professor Douglas Kell said "We have a responsibility to ensure the highest welfare standards for the animals we farm, keep as pets and use for scientific and medical research. In order to do this we need a thorough understanding of what animal welfare is and how it can be measured in different animals. These new projects will help ensure best practice in animal husbandry has a sound evidence base."

Dr Robinson said "Assessing animal welfare is a crucial step for reducing pain, suffering and distress. I am particularly pleased that we have made three awards to better identify and alleviate pain and stress in fish, as the latest Home Office statistics show that the fish are now the second most common type of animal used in research and testing, and their use is increasing."

The latest awards bring the Centre's investment since 2004 to over £30 million on 131 different grants.

ENDS

Notes to editors

The eight projects funded by BBSRC are:

  • Professor Nabeel Affara, University of Cambridge
    Evaluating the genetic and epigenetic contributions to porcine maternal infanticide and their potential use to identify at risk animals
  • Dr Jonathan Amory, Writtle College
    Assessment of Dairy Cow Welfare through Predictive Modelling of Individual and Social Behaviour
  • Dr Lisa Collins, Queen's University of Belfast
    Development of validated cognitive and behavioural indicators of welfare in pigs towards a predictive early warning system for poor welfare
  • Professor Marian Dawkins, University of Oxford
    Automated assessment of broiler chicken welfare using optical flow patterns in relation to behaviour, disease risk, environment and production
  • Dr Dorothy McKeegan, University of Glasgow
    Thermography as a tool for the assessment of stress and affective states in an avian model
  • Dr Tom Smulders, Newcastle University
    Developing and validating a practical screening tool for chronic stress in livestock
  • Dr Eileen Wall, Scottish Agricultural College
    Using systems biology to understand and routinely predict health and welfare traits in dairy cattle
  • Dr Deborah Wells, Queen's University of Belfast
    Lateralised behaviour as a predictor of welfare risk in the domestic dog

Further information about the projects funded by NC3Rs can be found at www.nc3rs.org.uk.

About the NC3Rs

The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) is a scientific organisation which leads the discovery, development and promotion of new ways to:

  • Replace animals in research and testing with non-animal alternatives
  • Reduce the number of animals used in experiments where their use is unavoidable
  • Refine scientific procedures and husbandry to minimise pain, suffering and distress

The NC3Rs is responsible for delivering the Coalition Government pledge to work to reduce the use of animals in science. Primarily supported by Government, the NC3Rs also receives funding from the charitable and industrial sectors. The Centre is the UK's major sponsor of 3Rs research. www.nc3rs.org.uk

About the MRC

Further information about the MRC is available at www.mrc.ac.uk.

About BBSRC

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £445M (2011-2012), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk.
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes.