Seven project grants awarded

Further funding for new approaches to reduce reliance on animals in research and improve animal welfare will ensure that the UK’s scientific community continues to lead in its commitment to the 3Rs.

£2.35 million has been awarded across seven projects in our 2016 project grant competition. Our flagship response-mode funding scheme attracts world-class research from leading scientists in a broad range of fields. The new awards take the total commitment by the NC3Rs in 3Rs research to over £50.6 million in the last twelve years.1

One of the awards made is to Dr Helinor Johnston at Heriot-Watt University to support the development of non-mammalian models for toxicity testing of nanomaterials which will replace and reduce the use of rodents. The focus is on the inflammatory effects of inhaled nanoparticles, but the models could also be used to test chemicals and pathogens such as bacteria and fungi, and even study human respiratory diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Toxicity testing of nanomaterials is a burgeoning area of research and funding of this project represents an important step towards aligning early safety testing of nanomaterials with the 3Rs principles.

Another project led by Dr Oliver Britton at the University of Oxford  aims to develop and validate in silico models of human dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neuron electrophysiology, which could replace the use of 4,500 animals annually in specific areas of chronic pain research. This powerful in silico technique, incorporating natural variation in DRG neuron sub-types, will be used to study sodium channel mutations in pain receptors and drug effects, and has the potential to guide the development of better therapeutics for pain relief.

Improving animal welfare continues to be an important focus for the NC3Rs, with funding for a project led by Dr Oliver Burman at the University of Lincoln to develop and validate a novel tool for improved welfare assessments in fish, which are increasingly used in research and testing. The automated social network analysis tool will be used to monitor changes in social interactions within groups of zebrafish and rainbow trout and identify those changes which provide early warning signs of compromised welfare. The impact of interventions designed to improve welfare, such as environmental enrichment, will also be assessed.  An important aspect of this award will be to extend use of the technology to fish holding and breeding facilities, proving a real-time user-alert system to optimise husbandry and improve welfare.

Dr Vicky Robinson, Chief Executive of the NC3Rs, said: "We are excited about the broad range of cutting edge science funded through this year’s competition. Project grants are an essential part of our funding strategy, and these awards will harness new technologies and approaches to drive 3Rs impact.”

Information on all project grants awarded:


  1. Excludes £15.4 million committed via our CRACK IT open innovation platform. 

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