In this blog, the FRAME team provides an overview of 2020 and the important work the charity has continued to carry out in spite of the global pandemic.
2020 has been a challenging year for us all, but one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted is the urgent need for good – robust, reliable, efficient and effective – science as well as the important role of information sharing and collaboration within both academia and the scientific industry. The search for possible vaccines and treatments has created an unprecedented level of openness in the research community and has shone a light on the alternative, non-animal technologies being used to gather data about the virus.
The events of this year will hopefully allow gains from animal research to be evaluated, alongside the important contribution of non-animal methods, to assess the current state of animal testing and – crucially – influence a future without it.
Throughout the pandemic, FRAME’s work to research alternatives to the use of animals in medical and scientific research, education and testing has continued, and we cannot thank our supporters and corporate sponsors enough for their continued support, interest and enthusiasm for our vision of a world where non-animal methods are accepted as scientific best practice.
Let’s take a look at our year in review:
Every year, FRAME delivers an annual FELASA (Federation of European Laboratory Animal Science Associations) accredited Training School, held in collaboration with the University of Nottingham. The 2020 course was scheduled to take place at the Moredun Research Institute, Edinburgh at the end of April 2020. Due to the pandemic, the training team had to take the difficult decision to postpone the event, but has since been busy making preparations to deliver the course online in 2021. To find out more and register for updates about the Training School 2021, click here.
The pandemic also led us to make changes to our Summer Studentship programme, which has been developed to support undergraduates in undertaking summer research projects in an area relating to the development of alternative methods. We anticipated that laboratory research projects weren’t going to be possible, so we redirected the funds to other types of research and were pleased to award three summer studentships looking at the policy, practice and regulation of animal research. Find out more about the studentship winners and their projects here.
In June, we revealed the results of our global study: ‘Fact or fiction? Mapping perceptions of animal testing’ which we commissioned to understand current public attitudes and perceptions of animal testing and research for medical, chemical, and cosmetic purposes. Amongst its findings, the study revealed that the overwhelming majority of people (93.4%) think more needs to be done to replace and reduce the use of animals in testing and research. We’d like to say a big thank you to those who took the time to complete the survey – the information and insights we gathered will help to inform our outreach strategy and focus our key messages for the public, the education sector, policymakers and businesses.
FRAME provides a core grant to sustain the work of the FRAME Alternatives Laboratory (FAL) at the University of Nottingham, where cutting edge, new, human-centred methods for studying disease are developed and shared.
The FAL was closed in late March in response to the COVID-19 lockdown but desk-based research continued and when the lab was able to reopen, social distancing measures and staff ‘bubbles’ were established to ensure the safety of all students and staff. We are proud that two of the FAL’s researchers – Razan Al-Momani and Syedia Rahman – volunteered their time and skills to help test samples from COVID-19 test sites at the Alderley Park Lighthouse Laboratory and contributed to the global effort in tackling the pandemic.
The FAL has worked on a number of successful, human-relevant projects this year, including developing an in vitro model to study fatty liver disease associated with chemotherapy; collaborating with the University of Helsinki to investigate the effect of a commonly used drug on gut microbiota and gene expression in inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) patients, and working with the MRC Versus Arthritis Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research on a study to assess the effect of limiting food intake to eight hours of the day on metabolic health and weight loss in healthy human subjects.
We were delighted to appoint Celean Camp as FRAME’s first CEO, in March of this year. Celean joined FRAME to drive the charity’s overall strategy and operations, including fundraising, education and publicity, and works with the FRAME team and Board of Trustees to raise the charity’s profile and increase income to support its work.
We also welcomed two new trustees to the Board. XCellR8 founder, Dr Carol Treasure joined us in June, closely followed by University of Glasgow NTCO, Dr Lesley Gilmour, in August. FRAME’s Board of Trustees work alongside the FRAME team to provide strategic direction and governance, and we are extremely grateful for their dedication and support.
Finally, FRAME’s peer-reviewed scientific journal ATLA (Alternatives to Laboratory Animals) appointed a new editor-in-chief, Dr Judith Madden, as well as four leading scientists – Dr Helen Kandarova, Dr Winfried Neuhaus, Dr Alicia Paini and Dr Esther Haugabrooks – as associate editors. Their experience and knowledge will be invaluable to ATLA and will help FRAME to ensure that the journal remains a highly respected source of information for those working in alternatives.
Looking to the future
We have a number of exciting developments in the pipeline for 2021, including new additions to the FRAME team and Board of Trustees, and the launch of our brand-new website which we have been working hard on behind the scenes. The new-look website will feature guest blogs from scientists across academia and industry and we are inviting blog contributions which share knowledge and experiences, promote discussion and debate, and create opportunities for sharing current ideas, projects and challenges, relating to the use of animals and alternatives in research. If you have an idea for an article, we’d love to hear from you. Please email: email@example.com.
We are also looking forward to delivering our virtual Training School in late spring 2021, as well as celebrating 30 years of the FAL with an online exhibition – watch this space for more details!
We want to eliminate the need to use laboratory animals in any kind of medical or scientific procedure and we need your help and support to allow us to achieve this.
FRAME is dependent on sponsorship, donations and legacies to support its vital work. No matter how small, your donation will help us continue with our work to develop and promote alternatives to the use of animals in laboratories.
To donate to our cause, please click here.
Thank you! We are extremely grateful for all donations that we receive.