Exceptional researchers awarded David Sainsbury Fellowships for alternatives in animal research

Four early career scientists have each received awards of almost £200k over three years to undertake research which will reduce the use of animals in the study of diseases such as viral infections, cancer, liver disease and asthma.

The Fellowship scheme is named in recognition of the role played by former science minister Lord Sainsbury in the establishment of the NC3Rs. It supports junior scientists in their transition to independent researcher and ensures that some of the UK's best new talent is engaged in research which will not only address important scientific questions but will also develop alternatives to animal experimentation and improve animal welfare.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville said: "This is an impressive group of early career scientists who I am sure will, as a result of their fellowships, be great ambassadors - for research to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals - throughout their careers."

Information on the 2012 Fellowship awards:

  • Dr Adrian Biddle, Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London

Dr Biddle will use his Fellowship to develop a high throughput screen for assessing potential drugs against cancer stem cells. These are a distinct population of cells within cancerous tumours that are believed to be responsible for their recurrence and spread and are therefore essential targets in the fight against cancer. The success of Dr Biddle's in vitro model could lead to large reductions in the numbers of mice used in cancer drug development.

  • Dr Adjanie Patabendige, University of Liverpool

Dr Patabendige will use her Fellowship to develop a three-dimensional human model of the blood-brain barrier. One of the functions of the barrier is to protect the brain from infection by bacteria and viruses. Studying the role of the barrier is an important aspect of research into diseases such as viral encephalitis and it has been estimated that approximately 130,000 animals have been used for this purpose in the last ten years. Dr Patabendige's research will help replace some of this animal use.

  • Mrs Claire Richardson, Newcastle University

Mrs Richardson will use her Fellowship to identify ways of reducing and refining the study of fatigue in mice. Fatigue is a debilitating aspect of many diseases and is the most commonly encountered symptom in many forms of liver disease. A range of mice models of liver disease are used to study fatigue and Mrs Richardson will investigate how these can be improved so that procedures such as the 'forced swim test' can be avoided and instead animals can be monitored in their cages for more subtle signs of fatigue which are likely to be more relevant to human disease.

  • Dr Amanda Tatler, University of Nottingham

Dr Tatler has been awarded a Fellowship to take an holistic approach to applying the 3Rs to her work to study the structural changes that occur in the airways of patients with severe asthma. This will include developing a human cell based approach to replace some animal studies. Where mice have to be used, Dr Tatler will employ a lung slice model to reduce use by up to 97% and imaging techniques to track changes in the lungs so that animals can be humanely killed before the disease fully develops.

Subscribe to our newsletter