An expert committee has published damaging findings following an independent investigation into animal research at Imperial College London.

Chaired by Steve Brown from the Medical Research Council’s mammalian genetics unit, the committee was invited by Imperial College to assess its approaches to research using animals following allegations made against the college by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) in April 2013.

Although the committee commended the college’s animal care staff and the standards of husbandry, its report states Imperial College lacks adequate leadership, management, operational, training, supervisory and ethical review systems to support high standards in animal use and welfare.

As a leading institution, with a national and international reputation for research excellence, the report suggests Imperial College should be aspiring to the highest standards of animal use and to lead in the development and application of new approaches to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research (the 3Rs).

Thirty-three recommendations are made by the committee to introduce significant change to working practices at the college.

Prof Brown said: “Our investigation identified a number of serious concerns on the conduct, management and oversight of animal research at Imperial College. The college now has an opportunity to take our findings and recommendations forward.

“Imperial College is internationally recognised as one of the world’s best research institutes and it is important this is matched by its standards of animal use and welfare.

“While our focus has been on Imperial College, the committee’s recommendations should serve as a useful framework for other institutions to review their policies and practises.”

Among recommendations put forward to Imperial College is a complete reform of its internal processes for the ethical and scientific review of animal studies, increased staffing levels in the animal facilities, additional resources to support the training and competency assessment of those using animals and the creation of a new senior director role with overall responsibility for animal research and the 3Rs at the college.

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