The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) has launched an initiative to provide topline estimates of the potential impact of science-led activities that aim to replace, reduce and refine animal use in research and testing.

Developed as a graphic to accompany communications of scientific activities funded by the NC3Rs, the label of “potential 3Rs impact” will include information on the number of animals and species to benefit from the work, the sector it applies to, the scientific discipline and whether the main focus of the activity is to replace animals with an alternative method, reduce the number of animals used, or benefit animal welfare.

The new initiative will be rolled out in 2014 across NC3Rs activities, including research grants, studentships and fellowships, along with the centre’s collaborative data-sharing programmes with industry and academia. The first labels accompany case studies in the NC3Rs 2013 Research Review publication, which was launched at an event in London and details highlights from the centre’s research funding portfolio.

Featured in NC3Rs-funded research is a scheme with the potential to avoid the use of an estimated 500,000 mice and rats globally by using social amoeba in academic and pharmaceutical research into new epilepsy treatments. Led by Robin Williams at Royal Holloway, University of London, the new approach has already replaced the use of 4,800 animals by his group to test 60 potential drug compounds, representing a 98% reduction in animal use since 2009.

Vicky Robinson, chief executive at NC3Rs, said: “Many NC3Rs activities will only deliver national and international 3Rs benefits in the medium-to-long term since they are dependent on the acceptance and adoption of innovative new approaches by scientists, regulators and research funders.

“Predicting the potential impact at the point of awarding research funding or starting a new collaborative project is always challenging in a dynamic and rapidly changing scientific landscape. By providing a best estimate early on, we not only hope to demonstrate more openly why a particular activity is important from a 3Rs perspective, but also show how our science-led activities can benefit many millions of animals globally and encourage wider uptake.”

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