Imperial College London

Inaugural memorial lecture celebrates excellence in animal research


Professor James Stirling in the animal research lab

Professor James Stirling was Imperial's Establishment Licence Holder for animal research

This year Imperial’s annual celebration of excellence in animal research was marked by the first lecture in honour of Professor James Stirling.

Professor Stirling was a distinguished physicist who was Imperial College London’s Provost from 2013 to 2018, responsible for leading Imperial’s core academic mission of education, research and innovation.

He was the College’s Establishment Licence Holder for animal research, championing this area of Imperial’s work. He was committed to ensuring that Imperial upheld the highest standards of animal welfare and that it was leading in replacing, reducing and refining the use of animals (‘the 3Rs’).

Using animal models to tackle Multiple Sclerosis

The first James Stirling lecture was given by Professor Richard Reynolds from the Department of Brain Sciences, who was Chair of Imperial’s 3Rs Committee from 2014 to 2019. He talked the audience through a 12 year journey of translational medicine in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) research: from studies in human tissue, to developing an animal model that was essential for creating new and more efficient therapies to tackle the disease.

Professor Richard Reynolds in the lab
Professor Richard Reynolds gave the first James Stirling lecture

Talking about Professor Stirling, he said: “It’s a great honour to give this lecture in memory of James. He was a brilliant academic who made major contributions in his research field. One of the many wonderful things about James was his infectious smile. Another was his engagement in everything that was going on in terms of animal research”.

Showcasing excellence

A mouse in the research lab
The prizes form part of Imperial’s commitment under the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research

The lecture followed a series of talks from some of this year’s winners of the Provost’s Prizes for excellence in animal research, which recognise contributions to advancing the College’s mission to be ‘best in class’ for animal research.

Speakers included animal technician David Macdonald  who described a refinement in animal care  to avoid rats being housed on their own and Dr Elina Akalestou, from the Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, who highlighted how the support and infrastructure of Imperial have helped her 3Rs work. Public engagement winners Andrew Youngson and Dr Anna Napolitano discussed the power of communicating with a broader public about the use of animals in research, using social media platforms like Reddit.

Professor Ian Walmsley, Imperial’s current Provost and ELH, praised the winners for their achievements. “I am very delighted to see so many people engaged and actively thinking of how we do animal research better. Keep up the good work - fantastic,” he said.

The prizes form part of Imperial’s commitment under the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research. The details of this year’s winners and their projects are available on the Imperial animal research webpage.


Anna Napolitano

Anna Napolitano
Office of the Provost

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