A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by NC3Rs's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from NC3Rs is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

1NC3RS |
Chief Executive:
Dr Vicky Robinson CBE
Cells grown in specialist
devices called organ-on-
chips can replace some
animal studies
Founded in 2004, NC3Rs is an organisation aimed at replacing,
reducing and refining the use of animals in medical research
and testing. Working alongside universities, private companies
and the government, it has become a leading presence in the
field and is always looking to drive global discourse on the topic.
Chief Executive Vicky Robinson CBE tells
The Parliamentary Review
more about the nature of the organisation’s work and offers an
insight into its plans for the future.
Few topics spark public interest as much as animal research. According to opinion
polls, 68 per cent of the UK public accept animal use for scientific purposes if there
is no alternative or unnecessary suffering caused; however, just over a quarter want
to see a complete ban. In the UK, animal research that can cause pain or suffering
is regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 with the Home Office
as the lead government department.
The law permits the use of animals as long as there is no alternative. Where their
use is unavoidable, it requires that scientists only use the minimum number of
animals and take steps to limit any pain, suffering or distress. These principles are
referred to as the “3Rs” – replacement, reduction and refinement – and were first
proposed 60 years ago.
Many scientists are committed to actively putting the 3Rs into practice. But there
is always more that can be done. In 2004, following the publication of a Select
Committee Report by the House of Lords, a national centre – the NC3Rs – was
established to help scientists find new ways of replacing, reducing and refining
the use of animals in research. Since then, we have become a world leader in
»Chief Executive:
Dr Vicky Robinson CBE
»Founded in 2004
»Based in central London with
regional staff supporting
scientists in universities
»Services: Funding research
and early-career scientists,
supporting changes in policy,
practice and regulations, and
providing information and
educational resources for
»No. of employees: 37
»Works with scientists
in universities, industry,
regulatory authorities and
other funding bodies
»Budget: £10 million, mainly
from MRC and BBSRC
Highlighting best practice
2| NC3RS
this area, working with scientists in
universities and industry, including
SMEs and multinationals across the
pharmaceutical, biotechnology,
agrochemical and consumer product
sectors. Although we were initially
established as a national centre, much
of our work is also international,
including in the USA and China.
What are the 3Rs?
»Replacement: Avoiding or replacing
animal use, for example, using cell
cultures, computer modelling or
human volunteers.
»Reduction: Where animal use is
necessary, keeping numbers to
the minimum, for example, using
statistical methods to determine the
smallest number of animals that can
be used in an experiment.
»Refinement: Where animal use is
necessary, minimising pain and
suffering and improving welfare,
such as using pain relief and
providing housing that allows animals
to perform their natural behaviours.
More than being nice to
Around four million animals are used in
scientific procedures each year in Great
Britain. Rodents and fish make up most
of this figure but other animals, including
dogs and monkeys, are also used. Often
the animals are used as a surrogate
for what might happen in humans,
for example, to understand how an
organ works or whether a chemical
might be toxic. Evidence suggests that
animals, unsurprisingly, aren’t always
good models of humans, and using
the 3Rs principles as a focus, we have
funded research that has replaced or
reduced the use of animals while also
providing important new knowledge
across a range of areas, including cancer,
infectious disease and drug testing.
Investing in cutting-edge
In the last 15 years we have committed
£63 million in 3Rs research for exciting
technologies such as organ-on-
chips, a type of artificial organ and
computer modelling. Our CRACK IT
programme focuses on developing and
commercialising 3Rs technologies that
can be used in industry, for example
to improve the drug development
pipeline so that new medicines can
get to patients more quickly. We have
invested £20 million in research and
development that has led to SMEs
being established, or growing, to
provide industry with expert services
such as the testing of kidney toxicity
Computer modelling can
help to replace some
animal experiments
Zebrafish are increasingly
used in research
We have
invested more
than £20
million in
research and
3NC3RS |
without animals, and new products
that enable better monitoring of
animal welfare during tests on the
effects of drugs on the nervous system.
Promoting high standards of
animal welfare remains essential
Emerging technologies are providing
scientists with an opportunity for the
first time to make significant strides
in replacing and reducing animal
experiments. Nevertheless, animal
use will continue to be necessary
for many areas of science for the
foreseeable future. Gene editing
approaches that allow animals to be
readily genetically modified will likely
increase overall numbers. We have an
obligation to ensure that any animal
suffering is kept to a minimum. One
of the areas we have championed is
better identification of pain so that
animals can get the right analgesia.
Research we have funded has shown
that changes in facial expressions in
animals such as mice, rats and rabbits
that normally conceal signs of suffering
can be used to identify those in pain.
We have developed posters to help
scientists use the so-called grimace
scale – 20,000 posters have been sent
to laboratories in 69 countries to date.
We have an
obligation to
ensure that
any animal
suffering is
kept to a
Virtual heart for drug screening: Up to 50 per cent of
drugs are abandoned in development due to concerns
about adverse effects on the heart. This is despite
extensive testing, including on animals such as guinea
pigs, rabbits, dogs or monkeys. NC3Rs funding of
£512,000 to scientists at Oxford University has
contributed to the development of a computer model
to help replace the use of animals. The model
simulates heart function based on human data, and
tests with reference compounds show it is more
accurate than animals at predicting heart arrhythmia.
The computer model is being evaluated by four
pharmaceutical companies and has already led to a 30
to 33 per cent reduction in animal use for assessing
cardiac risk.
Ferrets in flu research: Each year seasonal flu kills
around 12,000 people in the UK. Occasionally the
influenza virus transfers between species, leading
to flu pandemics. Ferrets are used in flu research as
they get the infection like humans. In the research,
ferrets are infected with the virus and then housed
with other ferrets. The spread of the virus from donors
to sentinels is used to study factors affecting virus
transmission. For some studies, up to 64 sentinels are
used. With NC3Rs funding of £400,000, scientists at
Imperial College London have developed a device that
avoids using sentinels in some studies. Instead, the
donor sits in a tunnel for up to ten minutes and its
exhaled breath is channelled along an attached tube,
which contains cells that are highly susceptible to
influenza viruses, allowing transmission to be studied.
How to pick up a mouse: Laboratory mice are usually
picked up by the base of the tail, so that they can
be moved between cages, taken for experiments, or
examined to check their welfare. With NC3Rs funding
of £120,000 scientists at Liverpool University have
shown that picking up mice using the tail causes
anxiety and that the mouse’s welfare can be improved
by instead using a small tunnel or a cupped hand.
The quality of data in experiments can be affected by
whether an animal is stressed or not and the research
also demonstrated that in behavioural studies, more
reliable results are obtained when the mice are picked
up by the refined methods rather than the tail. The
research could benefit the welfare of tens of millions
of mice worldwide.
Picking up mice using
a tunnel rather than
by their tale improves
animal welfare

This article was sponsored by NC3Rs. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster