£4m dedicated to advancing the development and application of non-animal technologies, such as bioprinting human tissue

The development of non-animal technologies is vital in the search for alternatives that can replace the use of animals in scientific research. Fifteen feasibility studies, carried out by collaborations between companies and academia, will look at a range of non-animal technologies.

The technologies capitalise upon recent advances in the biosciences and engineering including; induced pluripotent stem cells, tissue engineering technologies, high-throughput platforms, computational modelling, novel imaging techniques and bioprinting technologies.

The NC3Rs, the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council have joined forces to fund the business-led projects which have the potential to change both the drug development and chemical testing landscape.

The funding enables project participants to explore the commercial feasibility of developing non-animal technologies and to test systems that have better predictive capacity and are more reflective of human responses to, and the environmental effects of, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Two of the projects are investigating the exciting potential applications of 3D printing for biological purposes. Renishaw PLC and collaborators have received funding to develop the first commercial stem cell bioprinter. They will test the bioprinter by producing human heart tissues. Bioprinted tissues could be used to facilitate high throughput drug screening without the need for animal tissues.

Avanticell Science Limited and their collaborators go a step further, attempting to automate the production of bioprinted cell-based analysis models, by additive printing of both the cells and their supporting structures. Increasing the reproducibility of these models will improve end-user uptake and maximise the screening efficiencies offered by this technology.  This advance has the potential to reduce new drug development costs and shorten development time.

Commenting on the awards, Dr Vicky Robinson, Chief Executive of the NC3Rs, said: "Non-animal technologies are at the cutting-edge of scientific development. The projects we have funded have the potential, not only to produce effective alternatives to animal models, but to actually improve upon the science. The intention is that the new technologies will be even better at predicting human response and more applicable to human disease than the animal models currently used.”

More information about the projects that will be undertaken by the winning applicants can be found on the Technology Strategy Board website.

Notes for Editors:

Contact the NC3RS Media Office:

Laura McGuinness, Communications Officer. Email: laura.mcguinness@nc3rs.org.uk, Tel: 020 7611 2239, Mob: 07795451836.

1. Background to the ‘Advancing the development and application of non-animal technologies’ competition for feasibility study funding:

The competition was devised to build upon the output of several national workshops held by the Technology Strategy Board and the NC3Rs in 2013. Following the workshops, funding was set aside to harness the commercial potential of technologies in this area. The competition was open to companies in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, chemical, agrochemical research industries, amongst others, and networking events were held at the end of 2013 and in early 2014 to facilitate the establishment of consortia groups.

2. Projects funded by the ‘Advancing the development and application of non-animal technologies’ competition:

1. Development of a 3D human cell-based model of liver fibrosis – a tale of two platforms, Asterand UK Acquisition Limited and University of Manchester, £152,018

2. Development of phenotypic assays on novel 3D platforms for pharmacological profiling of compounds, Aurelia Bioscience Limited and The Electrospinning Company Limited, £185,880

3. Automation of 3D cell model assembly by additive printing, Avanticell Science Limited, Tissue Click Limited and the University of Nottingham, £214,293

4. Bioreactor and bioprocessing of organoids to enable their market-wide drug screening application, Cellesce Limited and Cardiff University, £218,733

5. 3D cell culture model for studying non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), CN Bio Innovations Limited and XenoGesis, £100,211

6. InoCardia: Human traberculae work-loop feasibility, Inocardia Limited and Coventry University, £206,229

7. CVTox - Development of a co-culture cardiovascular toxicological model, Kirkstall Limited, ELISHA Systems Ltd and Manchester Metropolitan University, £212,219

8. Neuro-Tox: A novel integrated BBB-brain model for comprehensive drug permeability and toxicity testing, Kirkstall Limited, Queen Mary University of London Foundation and the University of Leeds, £218,737

9. Development and validation of a dynamic drug screening platform for ADME testing, MIca Biosystems, Keele University and XenoGesis, £172,761

10. Evaluating spectroscopic imaging of living skin equivalents as a new approach for topical formulations research, NPL Management Limited, Epistem Limited, £166,197

11. 3D Stem cell printing for animal-free drug development, Renishaw PLC and

Clyde Biosciences Ltd, Heriot-Watt University, £205,959

12. Evaluation of in-vitro tests to reduce animal testing in drug toxicology studies, Sirius Analytical Instruments Limited and University of Bath, £208,559

13. Capillary bed bioreactor: improved estimation of dermal bioavailability, Unilever Research and Development Colworth and University of Bath, £198,199

14. 3D-DIP-ChIP: an 'omics'-based method for measuring genotoxin induced DNA damage, Unilever Research and Development Colworth and University of Cardiff, £173,790

15. Non-animal replacement tests for acute toxicity testing, XCellR8 Limited, Frame, Inventya Limited and Lush Retail Limited, £181,944

3. About the NC3Rs:

The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) is a leading independent scientific organisation dedicated to replacing, refining and reducing the use of animals in research and testing.  It supports the UK science base by driving and funding innovation and technological developments that replace or reduce the need for animals in research and testing, and lead to improvements in welfare where animals continue to be used.  It funds research, supports training and development, and stimulates changes in regulations and practice.

Primarily funded by Government, the NC3Rs is also supported by the charitable and private sectors. It works with scientists in universities and industry in the UK and internationally.

Further information can be found at: www.nc3rs.org.uk  @nc3rs http://blog.nc3rs.org.uk.

4. About the Technology Strategy Board

The Technology Strategy Board is the UK’s innovation agency. Its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy.

For more information, please visit www.innovateuk.org

5. About the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council:

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £467M (2012-2013), we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk.
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes.

6. About the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory:

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) maximises the impact of science and technology (S&T) for the defence and security of the UK, supplying sensitive and specialist S&T services for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and wider government.

Dstl is a trading fund of the MOD, run along commercial lines. It is one of the principal government organisations dedicated to S&T in the defence and security field, with three main sites at Porton Down, near Salisbury, Portsdown West, near Portsmouth, and Fort Halstead, near Sevenoaks.

Dstl works with a wide range of partners and suppliers in industry, in academia and overseas. Around 60% of MOD’s Science and Technology Programme is delivered by these external partners and suppliers.

7. About the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council:

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change.

Subscribe to our newsletter