Letter: Animal research and the squeeze on science funding
across the country will be awaiting the outcome of tomorrow's comprehensive
spending review with understandable trepidation (Letters, 16 October).
cuts to the UK science budget will likely have a devastating impact on Britain's
research effort. Those of us whose work focuses on or benefits from novel
3Rs approaches – replacing, reducing and refining the use of laboratory
animals – may have particular cause for concern.
funding for 3Rs research is already a challenge. There are precious few
dedicated 3Rs funders and mainstream funding sources seldom prioritise innovation
aimed at reducing dependency on live animals or proposing entirely new approaches
aimed at replacing animal models altogether. Reducing and replacing animal
research wherever possible is, quite rightly, a requirement on all scientists.
The government recognises the very real scientific and animal welfare advantages
produced by novel alternative techniques in toxicology as well as medical
government's National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction
of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) demonstrates what can be achieved when sufficient
state funding for alternatives is in place. After years of funding neglect,
alternatives are now far better supported and consequently Britain has become
a world leader in alternatives technology development. But for how much
Rs approaches like three-dimensional test tube models of disease and non-invasive
neuroimaging offer exciting new answers to existing research questions.
Many of the techniques already replacing traditional animal use are also
far swifter and cheaper at producing results. But the societal benefits
of exploiting such techniques will be lost if the funding environment becomes
so squeezed that there is little room left for taking research risks. Innovation
needs to be encouraged, not stifled and marginalised.
Geoff Pilkington University of Portsmouth, Professor Miles Whittington Newcastle
University, Dr Franco Falcone University of Nottingham, Dr Charles Knowles
Queen Mary University of London, Dr Craig Winstanley University of Liverpool,
Professor Michael Coleman Aston University, Professor David Baker Queen
Mary, University of London, Dr Leslie R Noble University of Aberdeen, Professor
CV Howard University of Ulster, Dr George McKerr University of Ulster, Professor
Philip Stephens Cardiff University, Dr Deborah Holliday University of Leeds,
Professor Susan Jobling Brunel University, Dr Deborah Mason Cardiff University