Showcasing and celebrating the work of today’s early career researchers was the theme of a major two-day conference staged by the charity Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME) at the University of Nottingham on the 16th and 17th of July.
The Symposium formed part of FRAME’s 50th anniversary year celebrations, and gave early career scientists (postdocs and PhD students) a unique opportunity to showcase their work, in particular projects carrying out human-based, in vitro research or those using computer models and simulations.
Keynote speaker Professor Mark Coles from the University of Oxford delivered a talk on ‘Disruptive Technologies to Accelerate and De-risk Therapeutic Development.’
A passionate advocate for novel ‘Three Rs’ (Replacement, Reduction & Refinement) -based approaches, Professor Coles’ speech focused on utilising data driven modelling and experimentation instead of mouse-based models.
“Applying computational models to discover targets can de-risk translation from animal models to humans, and ultimately optimise clinical drug design,” he explained.
Professor Coles says that in order for development of these computational models to be accelerated, funders must promote data capture in an accessible format, so they can be applied to computer models. He believes that regulators must also have more confidence in these models over animal experiments and that editors of journals should be open to the idea that in silico (computer) models can be as effective as in vivo models for human therapeutic development.
PhD researchers and young scientists from leading universities across the world showcased their work via presentations and posters.
The judging panel, made up of FRAME trustees and associates, awarded the prize for Best Poster to Helena Emery of Swansea University for her ‘Novel use of insect larvae as a substitute model for indomethacin-induced gastric damage’ work. Helen’s study showed that Galleria mellonella have similar immune systems to vertebrates and could be used as a substitute for indomethacin induced gastric damage, reducing the need for a mammalian model.
University of Hull’s Andrew Riley’s ‘Move over mouse there is a new ‘chip’ in the block!’, was given the prize for the Best Oral Presentation. Andrew’s presentation discussed the use of microfluidics in drug screening, and how a microfluidic platform can maintain the viability of thyroid tissue slices ex vivo for a minimum of four days, allowing for the assessment of thyroid tissue radioiodine sensitivity/adjuvant therapies in real time.
Amongst the event’s delegates was Professor Eustace Johnson, who attended the event as a delegate from the University of Chester. He said: “It’s been fantastic. I’ve loved hearing from the young researchers who are up and coming in the field.”
Elliot Lilley, Senior Scientific Officer within the RSPCA Research Animals Department said: “The event has been a great opportunity to look at new developments within this field, and provide younger researchers with an opportunity to present their work. I’m delighted FRAME is running these events again.”
“FRAME hosted the Symposium as part of its commitment to develop and promote better scientific methods for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. Education and collaboration are important if we are to achieve the charity’s ultimate aim of the elimination of the need to use laboratory animals in any medical or scientific procedures,” explained the charity’s Scientific Liaison Officer, Amy Beale.
“The event has brought together scientists and researchers from across the world to celebrate current research being done to help reduce, replace and refine the use of animals in medical experiments.
“FRAME would like to not only congratulate our prize winners but also each and every scientist who showcased their research project at the Symposium. Every entry demonstrated how good science is helping to drive forward future biomedical and scientific research, and showed how the development of new and scientifically valid methods will help replace the need for laboratory animals in future research, education and testing.”
The Symposium’s drinks reception was sponsored by Tissue Solutions, a provider of ethically sourced human samples required for preclinical drug development and research. Long term supporters of FRAME, Next and Boots, also supported the event; Next provided gift vouchers for each of the award winners, and Boots donated a number of products for the delegate bags.
Pictured: Left to right: Amy Beale (Scientific Liaison Officer at FRAME), Professor Mark Coles (Kennedy Trust Senior Research Fellow and Director of Graduate Studies at Oxford University) and Dr Anna Cadogan (Chair of Trustees at FRAME).