The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) has awarded 21 new grants totalling £5.1 million, in what the Centre says is the largest-ever single allocation of funding in the UK for 3Rs research.

The grants are to researchers at the Universities of Newcastle, Sheffield, Stirling, Cambridge, York, Liverpool, Nottingham, Chester, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Loughborough, Aberdeen and Oxford, as well as Imperial College London, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, and Cancer Research UK.

They cover a broad range of research programmes using animals, from the causes of cancer and liver fibrosis to understanding the transmission of influenza virus and the effect of drugs on bone formation during osteoporosis.

Many of the projects involve multi-disciplinary teams, where biologists work with computational and mathematical modellers or animal-behaviour experts collaborate with neuroscientists.

Cutting edge

The new research is largely focused on developing and using cutting-edge techniques, such as a novel nebuliser and cell-culture system that will replace ferrets in influenza research, or adapting MR elastography, a non-invasive imaging technology that measures the elasticity of tissues, to take heart function readings in rodents.

The record funding this year reflects additional contributions of £1.9 million from the core funders of the NC3Rs, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Centre noted.

Joint call

That included a joint NC3Rs-BBSRC call for research proposals to develop new ways of measuring and assessing animal welfare. The NC3Rs considered proposals involving laboratory animals and the BBSRC those involving livestock and companion animals.