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New scheme to provide £1.3M extra funding to students for high cost training in animal physiology

25 January 2010

From today (25 January), research institutions with PhD students funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) or the Medical Research Council (MRC) can apply for additional funding to support the high cost of training for research into whole animal physiology. Working in partnership with the British Pharmacological Society, BBSRC and MRC have created an opportunity for institutions to apply for additional funding of £5K-£10K per year for the duration of a student’s PhD studies.

Addressing the skills gap in advanced in vivo sciences is vital to the future development of safe and effective therapeutics. These Strategic Skills Awards will help institutions provide the high quality training which students need in order to be able to undertake research in the most effective way and to ensure animal welfare.

In the first funding round, BBSRC and MRC jointly will make up to 68 awards available representing total additional funding to this area of £1.3M. The scheme will run annually in order to provide significant long-term financial sustainability to research training in whole animal physiology.

Dr Ian Lyne, BBSRC Head of Skills and Careers said: “We want to make sure that students receive the best training they can get. Skills in integrative mammalian biology remain very important and we are aware that due to the high cost of training, it can be difficult for institutions to provide PhDs in this area.”

Dr Peter Dukes, MRC Head of Research Career Awards said: “The MRC has an important role to play in training the research leaders of tomorrow. These high-level skills are vital for UK medical research, whether at universities or in business.”

Institutions will be asked to make short project proposals for high quality fundamental and translational science involving animals. Projects have to involve a significant component of high quality in vivo training and research. Priority will be given to projects that use advanced in vivo recording techniques that maximize the data obtained from each animal and minimise disturbance. All projects must have applied the 3Rs (see notes to editors section) i.e. alternatives must have been considered before a decision to use animals is made.

Dr Lyne said: “It is vitally important that students who are using animals in their research do so in such a way as to minimise suffering, while answering questions that are important to all of us.

“We are delighted to have the support of the British Pharmacological Society and the NC3Rs [see notes] in assessing proposals. They will provide valuable input that will help us to ensure that the proposals are likely to deliver excellent science, training in cutting-edge techniques relevant to industry, and with the minimum of disruption to laboratory animals.”

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Notes to editors

NC3Rs – National Centre for Replacement, Reduction and Refinement of Animals in Research –

The "three Rs" first described by Russell and Burch in 1959, are guiding principles for the use of animals in research in many countries:

  • Replacement refers to the preferred use of non-animal methods over animal methods whenever it is possible to achieve the same scientific aim
  • Reduction refers to methods that enable researchers to obtain comparable levels of information from fewer animals, or to obtain more information from the same number of animals
  • Refinement refers to methods that alleviate or minimize potential pain, suffering or distress, and enhance animal welfare for the animals still used


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450M in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.

The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.

About MRC

For almost 100 years the Medical Research Council has improved the health of people in the UK and around the world by supporting the highest quality science. The MRC invests in world-class scientists. It has produced 29 Nobel Prize winners and sustains a flourishing environment for internationally recognised research. The MRC focuses on making an impact and provides the financial muscle and scientific expertise behind medical breakthroughs, including one of the first antibiotics penicillin, the structure of DNA and the lethal link between smoking and cancer. Today MRC funded scientists tackle research into the major health challenges of the 21st century.

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