2017 Award winners
Launched in 2014, the Provost’s Awards for excellence in animal research acknowledged staff who have made advances in the 3Rs, shown openness or demonstrated a long-term commitment to improving research practice. Winners receive £1,000 to cover costs of presenting their work to a wider audience.
Award winners for 2017
Application of the 3Rs, researchers - Dr Marie-Sophie Nguyen-Tu
Dr Marie-Sophie Nguyen-Tu receives the Provost’s Award for leading the establishment of a new technique for researching pancreatic islets, the cell clusters that produce insulin. The technique transplants islets from the pancreas of mice to the anterior chamber of the eye, where they engraft on the iris and become fully functional.
Dr Nguyen-Tu’s work could greatly reduce the number of animals used in diabetes experiments, as the islets can be observed through the lifespan of the mouse. She has also led refinement initiatives, working with mechanical engineers to reduce the risk of eye damage and with an ophthalmologist to improve perioperative care.
Dr Nguyen-Tu said: “This prize is a recognition of the effort made by our group and Imperial College to apply the 3R rules and always work on more ethical procedures for animal welfare.”
Application of the 3Rs, researchers - Dr Charlotte Dean
Dr Charlotte Dean, Lecturer in Lung Development and Disease, National Heart & Lung Institute, receives the Provost’s Award for her work to introduce precision-cut lung slices (PCLS), a new technique, to her laboratory.
PCLS represents an opportunity to reduce the use of mouse tissue, replacing it with specially prepared human tissue collected post-mortem. The technique has the potential to be used widely in the respiratory research community and the pharmaceutical sector. Dr Dean and her team have employed lung slices to visualise different cell types within the lungs, and as a model for research
Application of the 3Rs, CBS staff - Mr Phil Rawson
Mr Phil Rawson receives the Provost’s Award for leading an initiative to house post-operative guinea pigs in groups, rather than in single cages. ‘We have always looked for ways and means to improve how we look after the animals in our care. I see it as recognition for the hard work the CBS team put in every day.”
This enrichment work, a refinement in animal care at Imperial, has led to reduced stress levels among the animals. Following discussions with the Home Office Inspector during 2015, Mr Rawson began to introduce group housing, initially with animals grouped in pairs. He worked with researchers to resolve concerns around suturing and identification. This trial was successful, and animals are now kept for up to four months, housed in groups of three or four.
Team award - Professor Wendy Barclay, Mrs Rebecca Frise, Ms Tess Boreham
This team receives the Provost’s Award for their refinement of ferret models for research into the transmission and mutation of influenza. This research is important for predicting the next pandemics and mutations of the virus.
Professor Wendy Barclay and her group worked closely with Ms Tess Boreham of Central Biomedical Services to research and embed best practices in handling ferrets and measuring responses.
Ms Frise said: “It’s great to be recognised for the work that not only myself but my colleagues have done.” Ms Boreham, technician and Named Animal Care and Welfare Officer at St Mary’s Hospital, said: “As a technician you are always looking at how things can be improved from an animal welfare point of view. The researchers that I work with here at St Mary’s are keen to refine their techniques as much as possible and CBS are always keen to help. This spirit of collaboration is what makes the difference between science and excellence in science.”
The ferret is widely regarded as the best model of influenza transmission, and the team has published and presented their findings in a variety of journals and forums.
Communications award - Ms Jemma Strachan, Ms Laura Gallagher, Mr Ryan O’Hare, Ms Madina Wane, Mr Ray Edgar
This team receives the Provost’s Award for designing, arranging and recording a Google Expeditions Virtual Tour of Imperial’s animal facilities.
The Expedition is aimed at secondary level school children, and the journey takes students through our facilities for rodents, rabbits and fish. It also includes information on the legal framework regulating animal research in the UK. The team worked under significant time pressures from the production crew to create an outstanding communications tool which describes Imperial’s work in clear, accessible language.
PhD student Ms Wane said: “Working with animals almost every day is constantly inspiring me to implement and find new ways to achieve 3Rs within my work.”