We have awarded almost £600k to three promising early-career scientists, for 3Rs research across a broad range of disciplines.
The David Sainsbury Fellowship scheme, named in recognition of the former Science Minister's role in the establishment of the NC3Rs, offers future leaders in science an award of £65k per annum for three years. Embedding the 3Rs in early career development is vital to ensuring significant and sustained progress in minimising the use of animals for scientific purposes.
Dr David Hill, from Newcastle University
Dr Hill is developing an in vitro melanoma model, which recreates the microenvironment of normal human skin, and will allow the investigation of the initiation, progression and spread of this potentially deadly skin cancer. Complementary to this model he is also investigating the use of a zebrafish embryo xenograft of human melanoma, to study later stages of melanoma invasion. He will also utilise time-lapse imaging techniques to reduce the overall numbers of animals.
These new models are intended to offer an alternative that could replace the use of mice for the investigation of melanoma growth. This would be hugely beneficial, since the current mouse xenograft models are not fully representative of the natural tumour microenvironment and are also likely result in pain and distress to the mice involved.
Dr Alessandra Poma, from University College London
Dr Poma is investigating the potential of nanoparticles to be used in diagnostic assays for avian influenza. Currently diagnostic tests detect viruses using antibodies which bind to specific parts of the virus in a 'lock and key' fashion. These antibodies are usually derived from animals, such as mice, rabbits and guinea pigs.
The use of nanoparticles offers a potential replacement option to the current animal-derived assays. However, 3Rs benefits aside, the work is exciting as it should result in the development of a new class of improved diagnostic tools, which could serve as a foundation for antiviral therapeutics, as well as facilitating the development of novel alternatives that will lead toward the reduction in the impact of such infectious disease.
Dr Ivana Poparic, from King's College London
Dr Poparic is looking at replacing mouse models of human eye movement disorders with the use of zebrafish embryo models. Through improved methodology, including live imaging techniques, the number of zebrafish embryos required for the research can also be reduced.
The study will generate transgenic fish lines the embryos of which can be used for studying the ocular motor system and abnormal eye movements. Overall, the numbers of animals used will be around tenfold less than is typical for a mouse study.
Commenting on this year's fellowship awards, Dr Vicky Robinson, our Chief Executive said: "The new awards have gone to three excellent early career scientists who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to the 3Rs, as well as the promise of delivering exciting science that could transform how animals are used in important areas of medical research."
To read more about the David Sainsbury Fellowships that have been previously funded, please see Our Science pages.