All of our work with animals is governed by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 Amended Regulations 2012 (A(SP)A), which is regulated by the Home Office.
Under A(SP)A animal research is only permitted at a licenced establishment, the experiment must be part of a licenced project and the investigator conducting work on animals also needs their own personal licence and must be competent in the procedures to be performed on live animals.
Home Office Inspectors visit facilities regularly to ensure full compliance with A(SP)A and good practice.
The Crick is a signatory of the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research, which sets out how organisations report the use of animals in scientific, medical and veterinary research in the UK.
Animal work at the Crick is considered very carefully weighing the potential benefits of the research against the potential harm to the animals, as per our Animals in Research Policy.
Before any work involving animals can begin, it is first scrutinised by our Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB) to ensure that the same scientific objective cannot be obtained without the use of animals and that the experiments cause as little harm to the animals as possible.
Animal research cannot be conducted if the same research could be done using non-animal research methods or if it would cause unnecessary harm to the animals. 'Unnecessary' harm would be any pain, suffering or distress that could be avoided without compromising the scientific validity of the project.
At the Crick, AWERB’s functions are divided between several committees to assure that all its responsibilities are fulfilled. The AWERB is led by the BRF Strategic Oversight Committee (BRF-SOC), supported by three key subcommittees: Production, Use, Care and 3Rs (PUC3RS) which promotes the 3Rs, ensuring a culture of care and good practice; Project Licence Review (PPL Review) which considers applications for new project licences and amendments to existing projects to ensure that the work proposed is necessary and ethically justified and Animal Accommodation, Compliance and Environment (AACE) which monitors the conditions in which animals are housed.
A broad spectrum of members of each committee and crossover of members between committees provides basis for effective decision making and communication flow. Although these are ‘internal’ committees, there are processes in place to assure impartiality, so nobody is allowed to advise on their own projects. We also have non-scientists from outside the Crick on committees, to provide an external view and challenge proposed projects that they are not comfortable with.
Several supporting groups also provide feedback to functional AWERB committees: Named Persons Forum, Technician Discussion Group, unit specific and function User Groups.
Principles of 3Rs
All licence holders must adhere to the principles of the ‘3Rs’.
All project licence applications consider 3Rs and these are discussed by AWERB and assessed by the Home Office inspector. Moreover, each project licence undergoes a mid-term review where the lead researcher describes the 3Rs initiatives applied during the first two and a half years of the project, and the outputs and progress are reviewed.
In vivo imaging plays a major role in facilitating the 3Rs, as it reduces the need for invasive procedures and allows us to get more information from each animals. This means scientists need fewer animals and fewer experiments to get the same, or better, results. See below for other examples of where Crick research has contributed to the 3Rs.