Funding scheme priority areas

Funding scheme priority areas are areas of strategic importance to the NC3Rs. To encourage applications and investment in areas that are currently a high priority for the 3Rs, we have dedicated highlight notices which typically run across all of the NC3Rs funding schemes.

Highlight notices do not have a separate budget and applications are considered in competition with the other applications received; however strategic relevance to the highlight is one of the assessment criteria taken into consideration during the assessment process.

Details of previous, current and future highlight notices can be found below.

2019 highlight notice

Animal models such as Drosophila and zebrafish embryos are routinely used in a wide range of research areas including for understanding mechanisms of disease and identifying novel biomarkers and targets for drug development.

We have shown that these models can also replace the use of rodents in research areas as diverse as neuroscience, cardiovascular and respiratory biology, inflammation and infection, cancer, and toxicology. However, this 3Rs potential remains under-exploited because of a lack of awareness of their utility and opportunities for collaboration. To address this, we are launching a highlight notice which will run across all of our funding schemes in 2019. The highlight notice is limited to the following model systems:

  • Zebrafish embryos and larvae
  • Drosophila
  • Nematodes, e.g. C. elegans
  • Galleria mellonella

To encourage partnerships, applications must include a mammalian model user (e.g. a large animal or rodent model user) and researchers using any of the model organisms listed above. Either can be the lead applicant. The partnership must address an important scientific or human health issue, and include plans for sustaining the “3Rs legacy”. The latter will include plans for transferring the model or technique to the lead applicant or co-applicant’s laboratory, and more broadly building confidence and encouraging uptake in other relevant laboratories nationally and internationally. The lead applicant must be UK based.

Applications from any area of medical, biological or veterinary research are within remit. Projects should focus on either the development and validation of a research application for the models listed above, or on the transfer of an established model to a mammalian model laboratory.

Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Office prior to submitting an outline or full application.

Please note that applications involving the use of other “non-mammalian” models (e.g. chick embryos) continue to be eligible for submission to our response mode funding schemes but will not be considered as part of the highlight notice.

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Historic highlight notices

Year Focus Aim Awards made 

Systematic reviews for 3Rs purposes 

To encourage the incorporation of sytematic reviews within projects and to maximise their potential 3Rs impact.

Professor Jonathan Hardman (University of Nottingham) Replacement of animal models of cardiac arrest and resuscitation strategies using a computer simulation


Further information on why and how to perform a systematic review can be found on the CAMARADES/ NC3Rs Systematic Review Facility (SyRF).

2018 BBSRC-NC3Rs joint funding highlight notice for ageing research (Project grants only)

To encourage the development of new and innovative models and approaches for ageing research, which reduce the current reliance on mammalian models, as well as address the gaps in terms of scientific utility and relevance to human ageing.

No awards were made under this highlight notice in 2018.

Increasing the use of human tissue

To better understand human health and disease, and to reduce the reliance on animal models in basic and biomedical research, a highlight notice for applications involving the use of human tissue was run across all schemes.

Dr Scott Davies (University of Birmingham) Multiphoton imaging in human liver tissues: validation of a new tool for drug discovery


Dr Meritxell Huch (University of Cambridge) Replacing liver cancer models by modeling human liver cancer in vitro


Dr Mariya Moosajee (University College London) Generating in vitro human optic vesicles to dissect the genetic modifiers affecting ocular maldevelopment


Further information on accessing human tissue is available on our ‘Increasing the use of human tissue’ web resource


Measures and assessment of animal welfare

In collaboration with BBSRC, we sought to encourage research in the field of measures and assessment of animal welfare, as applied to laboratory animals, livestock species and companion animals.

Professor Melissa Bateson (Newcastle University) Assessing cumulative severity in macaques used in neuroscience research


Professor Hannah Buchanan-Smith (University of Stirling) Validating reward-related behaviour for welfare assessment, and improving welfare through increased predictability of events


Dr Charlotte Hosie (University of Chester) Establishment of consensual husbandry protocols for laboratory Xenopus laevis using novel physiological and behavioural techniques


Dr Ioanna Katsiadaki (CEFAS) Assessing welfare in fish: the answer is in the water!


Ms Gidona Goodman (University of Edinburgh) Investigation of behavioural and physiological responses to fin-clipping in zebrafish


Dr Lynne Sneddon (University of Liverpool) The detection, assessment and alleviation of pain in laboratory zebrafish


Professor Michael Mendl (University of Bristol) Development and validation of an automated test of animal affect and welfare for laboratory rodents


Dr Sarah-Jane Vick (University of Stirling) Quantifying the behavioural and facial correlates of pain in laboratory macaques


Replacing animals protected under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 with invertebrate models 

Alongside BBSRC, we sought to stimulate research into the use of invertebrate models to replace the use of animals which are protected under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. 

Dr Susan Jobling (Brunel University) The snail assay as an alternative to the rodent Hershberger assay for detecting androgens and anti-androgens


Dr Kevin Moffat (University of Warwick) Drosophila as a model for Alzheimer's disease


Refinement in rodent husbandry, care and procedures

To develop refinements in rodent husbandry, care and procedures. Applicants were requested to particularly focus on:

  • Refining procedures used in the production and maintenance of rodents or;
  • A specific procedure, particularly those involving the use of large numbers of animals.

Dr Paul Simons (Univeristy College London) Inducible SAA transgenic mice: a refined model of human amyloidosis


Professor Shiranee Sriskandan (Imperial College London) Reduction and refinement of murine models of bacterial infection


Replacement, Refinement and Reduction in fish

At the time that this highlight notice was run, fish were the most commonly used laboratory animal species, after mice and rats, and the use of fish as experimental animals was increasing worldwide.* 
As such, we sought to promote research to further develop the 3Rs to the use of fish.

Professor Andrew Cossins (Univeristy of Liverpool) Development of a mechanistically informative genome-wide, replacement chemicals screening technology


Dr Ioanna Katsiadaki (CEFAS) Validating a sexual development test using the 3-spined stickleback for addressing the 3Rs in fish toxicity testing


Dr Jun Zou (University of Aberdeen) Development of leucocyte cell lines for immunological research in teleost fish


Tissue engineering solutions for replacing animal experiments

In collaboration with BBSRC, we sought to strengthen basic and translational research into tissue engineering solutions for the replacement of animal experiments, whilst also supporting interdiscplinary and integrative research.

Professor Donna Davies (University of Southampton) Modelling the human asthmatic airway by tissue engineering


Professor Jamie Davies (Univeristy of Edinburgh) A tissue engineering approach to reduce animal use in renal development and renal organ replacement technology


Professor William Hope (University of Manchester) An in vitro model of the human alveolus to predict the efficacy of systemic antifungal therapy


Professor Peter Jones (King's College London) Pseudoislets as a model system to study beta cell dysfunction in diabetes


Refinement of procedures of substantial severity 

To promote research into refining procedures classified by the Home Office as substantial severity (i.e. those that may result in a major departure from the animals usual state of health or well-being)

Dr Andrew Grierson (University of Sheffield) Refinement of therapeutic intervention in a mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis


Dr Alan MacNicoll (DEFRA) Humane endpoints for rodenticide testing


Dr Gavin Woodhall (Aston University) Development of a reduced severity rat epilepsy model

* Fish have now overtaken rats as the second most commonly used species in experiments (Home Office Annual Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals Great Britain 2016).

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