The Crick has published its 2020 statistics on animal research, showing a drop in the total number of animal research procedures carried out throughout the year due to COVID-19 disruptions.
Each year, we publish the number and nature of procedures involving animals as part of the institute’s commitment to openness about our animal research. More information and figures from previous years can be found here.
The latest numbers, which are also included in the government’s statistics of scientific procedures on living animals in 2020, show that 183,811 procedures were carried out at the Crick last year. The majority of these involved mice, and covered a range of purposes, from research into cancer, through neurobiology and developmental biology research to understanding the immune system.
In all Crick research we follow the 3Rs approach to using animals. We only use animals if there is no non-animal alternative to reach the same scientific objective; we reduce the numbers of animals used where we can; and for the animals in our care, we continuously refine and improve housing, care and experimental procedures, and work to minimise suffering.
A list of top ten institutions that carried out the most procedures on animals in 2020 has been published by the organisation Understanding Animal Research, with the Crick featuring at the top. All featured institutions saw a reduction in numbers compared to last year due to the pandemic.
“It has been a tough year for research with many ongoing studies put on hold during lockdowns. But our team of animal technicians and support staff worked tirelessly to protect long-term research projects and ensure that animal care and welfare standards were upheld without disruption,” says Jan-Bas Prins, director of the Crick’s Biological Research Facility (BRF).
“This year has also highlighted the value of the Crick’s model with science technology platforms including the BRF at the heart of science operations. These platforms offer state-of-the-art technologies and a variety of non-animal and animal model systems. With Crick researchers having ready access to these platforms, they can use and combine the most appropriate model systems to answer their scientific questions in accordance with the 3Rs principle. This was of particular value for our scientists who refocused efforts toward tackling SARS-CoV-2 and use non-animal alternatives wherever possible, and animal models helping to understand the complexities of COVID.”
Understanding the threat of coronavirus variants
In January, researchers at the Crick joined a new national research consortium to study the effects of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants. The ‘G2P-UK’ National Virology Consortium, brings together leading virologists from 10 UK research institutions.
They are tasked with studying new mutations in the virus and flagging the riskiest variants as they arise, such as those associated with fast spreading virus clusters or the potential to escape vaccination efforts. At the Crick, we are creating a bespoke and biologically secure facility to study the latest variants of interest in animals, including mice and hamsters.
David LV Bauer, Group Leader of the RNA Virus Replication Laboratory says: “We’ve seen the harm that new virus variants can cause so it’s important to be able to respond quickly if they look concerning. Patterns of spread can take a long time to spot in the community but by using animal models, we can quickly understand whether a new variant poses significant threat.”