7 Dec 2007 10:31 AM
Funding boost to reduce number of animals used in research

DEPARTMENT FOR INNOVATION, UNIVERSITIES AND SKILLS News Release issued by The Government News Network on 7 December 2007

Funding aimed at reducing, and ultimately replacing, the use of animals in research will double, Science and Innovation minister, Ian Pearson, has announced today.

The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) will see their funding substantially increase over the next three years. They provide a UK focus for the promotion, development and implementation of the 3Rs in animal research and testing.

The Centre currently receives just over £2 million per year from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) via the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). However, this will increase to just over £5 million in 2010/11.

Mr Pearson said:

"Animal research plays a vital part in medical research and has helped save millions of human lives. Nonetheless, we should always look for alternatives and Government is committed to the replacement, refinement and reduction of animals in research. It is an area where we are leading the world.

"We have a proud history of animal welfare and protection in this country and the work of the NC3Rs builds on that tradition. This rise in funding ensures the Centre can increase not only the research they fund but also their impact."

Dr Vicky Robinson, chief executive of the NC3Rs, said:

"We're delighted to be receiving this additional funding between now and 2011. As a young and growing organisation, getting strong support from Government helps to emphasise how important our efforts to replace, refine and reduce the use of animals in research and testing are for UK science."

"The extra money will allow the NC3Rs to further broaden its reach in the scientific community and fund more high-quality research to minimise the use of animals and improve their welfare where they are still needed."

Examples of the benefits such funding can bring include the discovery that through using tissue engineering, researchers now have the potential to grow whole embryonic kidneys from individual cells. This means that they won't have to be harvested from mice and will make research aimed at growing human kidneys in the same fashion quicker, easier and cheaper.

Notes to Editors

The NC3Rs brings together stakeholders in the 3Rs in academia, industry, government and animal welfare organisations to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas, and the translation of research findings into practice that will benefit both animals and science.

It was established in 2004 in response to the report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures which was published in July 2002. It replaced and builds upon the Medical Research Council's Centre for Best Practice for Animals in Research.

Replacement is the ultimate aim for the Centre, but as long as the use of animals continues to be necessary, every effort must be made to minimise the numbers used and improve their welfare. Optimal laboratory animal welfare is critical for scientific, ethical and legal reasons.

The use of animals in medical research is key to the understanding and treatment of human and animal disease. Government accepts that animal experiments are currently necessary to develop human and veterinary medicine, to protect humans and the environment.

UK, EU and US legislation requires the data on the safety, quality and efficacy of new medicines and their potential to harm human health and the environment to be assessed. All medicines made available for use in the UK need to be tested in animal studies.

The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) regulates the use of animals in scientific procedures in the UK. The principles of the 3Rs are implict in the ASPA; all UK scientists are therefore legally obliged to use alternatives approaches to the use of animals where possible, to use the minimum number of animals, and to use protocols which cause the least pain, suffering or distress.

The NC3Rs works on three important areas:

* Providing funding and support for new 3Rs research

* Producing and disseminating information about all 3Rs

* Creating a forum for industry, academia, regulatory agencies, and the animal protection community to work together to progress and implement the 3Rs

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 

For more information see the NC3Rs website http://www.nc3rs.org.uk