The world’s first professorial chair in animal replacement science will be created at Queen Mary, University of London in partnership with the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research (DHT), the UK-based charity that promotes the development of alternatives to animal studies in biomedical investigations.

The charity will fund the DHT Professorial Chair in Animal Replacement Science using a £1 million legacy left to the Dr Hadwen Trust specifically for this purpose by lifelong supporter Alan Stross.

The successful applicant will be based at Queen Mary’s Blizard Institute, which the DHT said is a recognised pioneer in the development of in vitro models using human cells and tissue – especially three-dimensional models in cutaneous, gastroenterology and cancer research.

According to Professor Mike Curtis, director of the Blizard Institute and deputy vice principal for health at Queen Mary, areas of special focus for the new position will include 3D cell culture, 3D modelling, bioinformatics and regenerative medicine, with particular emphasis on – but not limited to – diseases of the skin and the digestive tract.

Applications for the DHT Professorial Chair in Animal Replacement Science will be sought in March 2013.

Legislative change

As the DHT pointed out, a change in UK legislation due to come into effect this month will ensure that alternative, non-animal research techniques are used in medical science where they are available.

This is in line with the European Union’s revised Directive on the protection of laboratory animals, 8869/10, which was voted through by the European Parliament in September 2010.

A compromise version of the Directive obliged researchers to use available alternatives to animal models, provided these were recognised in Community legislation.

Pivotal role

The DHT Professorial Chair at the Blizard Institute will play a “pivotal role” in leading the UK’s response to the legislative change, by creating links between scientists in the sector and identifying areas of best practice in replacement science, the DHT said.  

The intention is also to develop educational programmes specific to animal replacement science, so that more young people are encouraged to choose a career in the field.

“Creating the world's first professorial chair in animal replacement science is a major stepping stone towards the development of a global community of scientists working together towards finding cures that replace the use of animals and are more human-relevant.,” commented Kailah Eglington, chief executive of the Dr Hadwen Trust

“This branch of science is becoming increasingly accepted among the scientific community and it is vital that new and existing scientists and researchers are aware that successful alternatives to animal testing are available today and that more are needed.”