Record funding of £5.1 million has been awarded for research designed to reduce animal experiments – and Cambridge UK technology is in the frame.Dr Raymond Bujdoso of the University of Cambridge has been awarded a grant to research the use of PrP transgenic Drosophila to measure mammalian prion infectivity.
The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) was able to make the largest single allocation of funding ever made for 3Rs research in the UK after additional contributions from the core funders – the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council.
The latest funding brings the Centre’s investment since foundation in 2004 to over £30 million on 131 different grants.
Projects awarded grants in the new round investigate 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.
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.
“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.”
BBSRC chief executive, Professor Douglas Kell added: “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.”
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Dr Vicky Robinson. Credit DCS Studios. Copyright NC3Rs