Edinburgh Infectious Diseases members win awards in NC3Rs CRACK IT Challenges to reduce use of animals in research

Edinburgh Infectious Diseases researchers at the Roslin Institute and the School of Chemistry have been awarded grants in the NC3Rs' CRACK IT Challenges competition.

Tom Freeman (Roslin) and Mark Bradley (Chemistry) are part of 2 separate consortia awarded up to £100,000 each in a bid to solve five of the pharmaceutical industry's biggest drug discovery and development challenges, where the replacement, reduction and refinement of animals in research (the 3Rs) is the ultimate goal.  The CRACK IT Challenges programme is led by the UK's National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs).

Mark Bradley (left; School of Chemistry) and Tom Freeman (right, Roslin Institute)

Tom Freeman:  Virtual Infectious Disease Research

Professor Tom Freeman together with colleagues at The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, Italy and Ireland has won one of a series of grants aimed at employing new ways of working that will eventually reduce the number of animals needed for research to discover and develop new drugs to fight infectious diseases.

Professor Freeman’s project aims to create a Virtual Infectious Disease Research platform to simulate the course of an infection and the body’s immune response. The work will initially focus on the computer modelling of complex interactions between an immune cell called a macrophage and its infection by the influenza virus that causes flu.

Control of infectious diseases is a key priority in human and veterinary medicine.  A study to test the efficacy of new antibiotics or vaccines can typically require around 100 animals for each drug candidate that is tested.  This project will develop new computing tools and ways of working with the aim of predicting the efficacy of drugs.  In this way the hope is that it will be possible to eliminate drug and vaccine candidates that are less likely to be successful thereby reducing the numbers of animals currently used in such tests.

The funding approach enables applicants to investigate more innovative technologies that are a higher risk investment.  Professor Freeman will have six months to develop his proof-of-concept and, if successful, he could secure further funding from the NC3Rs for further development and validation.

Professor Freeman said of the award,

We have been developing the tools to do this kind of work at The Roslin Institute for a number of years, such as the cell network analysis tool, Biolayout Express3D funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. "

Mark Bradley:  Inhalation Translation

Chronic inflammatory diseases of the airways, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, remain areas of considerable unmet medical need. Few new drugs have made it to the clinic during the past 50 years, with many that perform well in preclinical animal studies failing in humans due to lack of safety and/or efficacy. 

Mark Bradley and his collaborators, including Kev Dhailiwal in the Centre for Inflammation Research,  will address this challenge to enable the longitudinal and non-invasive assessment of inflammation associated with drug toxicity in the same animal, rather than using multiple animals.  It is hoped that this work will reduce animal use by up to 90% at certain stages of drug discovery and development.  It is also anticipated that data obtained would be more reliable and less variable and would lead to earlier go/no-go decisions on a drug candidate that may otherwise fail later in development after further animal tests had taken place.

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