The Francis Crick Institute has published statistics on its use of animals in research in 2019 as part of the Institute’s commitment to openness about studies involving animals.
At the Crick in 2019, we carried out 258,557 animal procedures, working mostly with mice, but also fish, frogs, ferrets and opossums to research many diseases including cancer, influenza, and tuberculosis. More information about the procedures carried out in 2019 and previous years is available here.
Our figures are included in the government’s ‘Statistics of scientific procedures on living animals, Great Britain 2019’ which has been published today, 16 July.
“At the Crick our researchers are working hard to understand a wide-range of devastating diseases,” says Jan-Bas Prins, director of the Crick’s Biological Research Facility.
“While we use alternatives to animal research wherever possible, these diseases are complex, frequently interacting with and affecting multiple parts of the body. Research into what causes different diseases, and finding new ways to prevent and treat them often requires us to work with animals.”
In all research at the Crick, we follow the three R’s approach: we only use animals if there is no non-animal alternative; if we use animals we reduce the numbers where we can; and for the animals we do use, we refine housing, care and experimental procedures, to protect their quality of life and reduce suffering as much as possible.
Alongside the government’s statistics, Understanding Animal Research, an organisation that promotes openness about animal research, has released a list of the ten institutions that carried out the most animal procedures in 2019, with the Crick featuring at the top of this list. This is why the Crick remains committed to be accountable, open and transparent about our research involving animals.
Working with mice to understand viruses
One example of how working with animals can generate invaluable insights into disease and potential treatments was recently published in Science.
Researchers from our Immunoregulation lab worked with mice to better understand how the immune system responses to viruses in the lungs. They found a protein, interferon lambda, which is initially helpful in the body’s immune response to a virus, however it can later interfere with the repair of lung tissue.
The work highlights the need for careful consideration regarding the use of this protein to treat viruses, including coronavirus.
Author of the study, Andreas Wack, says: “Our work involving mice has revealed the many different functions of this protein. At the beginning of a viral infection, it is protective, triggering functions that help to fight the virus. However, if it remains in the tissue for too long, it could become harmful.
“And the impact for humans with viruses, including coronavirus is clear. Our work suggests that for any anti-viral treatment that uses this protein, there is a really careful balance that must be struck. Clinicians should consider the timing of the treatment, the earlier this better, and the duration of treatment.”