Funding for the UK’s National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) will more than double over the next three years, the government has announced.

The Centre, which brings together stakeholders in the 3Rs (Reduction, Refinement and Replacement of laboratory animals) from academia, industry, government and animal welfare groups, currently receives just over £2 million (€2.79 million) from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills by way of the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). By the year 2010/11, this will have increased to just over £5 million.

The exact figure for 2007/08 was £2.37 million, with £1,815,000 provided through the MRC and £553,000 through the BBSRC. Under the new schedule, the NC3Rs will get a total of £3.47 million (MRC: £2,640,000; BBSRC: £828,000) in 2008/09; £4.27 million (MRC: £3,240,000; BBSRC: 1,028,000) in 2009/10; and £5.07 million (MRC: 3,840,000; BBSRC: 1,228,000) in 2010/11.

Ian Pearson, the UK Minister of State for Science and Innovation, 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.”

£1m increase
In September Pearson announced grant awards of £2.4 million for 11 new projects supported by the NC3Rs, a £1 million increase on the allocation for 2006. The more determined push behind the 3Rs comes at a delicate time for animal researchers, with the European Union's Directive 86/609/EC on the protection of laboratory animals – which does not explicitly mention the 3Rs concept – currently under review.

In July the government’s record on the welfare of laboratory animals came under scrutiny when a High Court judge ruled that it had acted unlawfully in assigning a ‘moderate’ severity rating to a licence for invasive brain surgery on marmosets performed at a Cambridge University neuroscience laboratory.

In the same month, the Home Office released data showing that just over 3.01 million scientific procedures involving animals were started in the UK during 2006, a rise of around 4% on the previous year.