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FRAME’s 2021 – a year in review

In this blog, we provide an overview of our key highlights and activities during 2021.

This past year, we passed a major milestone for FRAME – celebrating 30 years of the FRAME Laboratory in partnership with the University of Nottingham. We are proud of this accomplishment, but we are also aware that, although much has been achieved in the 52 years since FRAME was founded, there are still millions of animals in the UK and worldwide that are used in medical and scientific research.

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.

We’re proud that the FRAME Laboratory has worked on a number of successful, human-relevant projects during 2021, and we’ve been able to continue our key education and outreach work to help promote alternative, non-animal science.

Let’s take a look at our year in review:

Education

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. Due to the pandemic, the event moved online in 2021 but the course was delivered successfully through live lectures and group discussions that encouraged interactivity and collaboration. The first 2022 Training School in January will also take place online, but we are hoping to be able to hold our Spring Training School in person in Nottingham. The January event has now sold out, but you can join the waiting list here.

This winter, we wanted to raise awareness of the continued use of mice in scientific and medical research. In 2020, 2 million of the total 2.88 million procedures carried out on animals used mice – that’s over 70 percent. We created a free guide explaining why mice are used so widely in research, and how we should go about replacing them with more human-relevant, non-animal alternatives. You can download the free guide here.

Research

In the summer, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the world-renowned FRAME Laboratory and highlighted the achievements and key research areas of the incredible lab team and students who have trained there. We were incredibly grateful for the support and generous donations we received for our Fund the Future campaign – every penny has gone directly to the FRAME Laboratory to fund research into ways to replace animals in medical experiments.

2021 saw the launch of our new Innovation Grant funding stream for projects with the potential to replace animal use in biomedical research. The Innovation Grants will enable scientists to explore innovative ideas and generate proof of principle, to support applications for larger grants in the future. We received a number of exciting applications and will be announcing the winning projects in early 2022.  

The winners of our 2020 Summer Studentship Programme – an annual initiative that offers grants to undergraduate students to allow them to carry out a summer research project – completed their projects this year. You can find out more about the projects and their outcomes here. We were also pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 Programme. This year saw an increase in the number of applications and diversity of project ideas. Sadly, the applications also demonstrated the huge impact that the closure of laboratories in 2020 had had on the ability of young scientists to gain practical experience. The panel assessing the applications was really impressed and inspired by the quality of the entries, and the passion of these trainee researchers. As a result, we agreed that the Summer Studentships were even more essential than usual and increased the amount of money available so that we could enable as many applicants as possible to benefit from the vital experience of developing their skills by conducting a practical animal-free laboratory project. We were delighted to be able to award a record five summer studentship grants to students from universities across the country. Learn more about the successful 2021 grant awardees and their project plans here.

The FRAME Laboratory achieved some great results this year, with a paper on a key project to develop biomaterial scaffolds that support in vitro tissue development published in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Journal of Materials Chemistry B. Find out more.

Wichitra Asanprakit successfully completed her PhD at the FRAME Laboratory under the supervision of Dr Andrew Bennett earlier this year, with her breast cancer research project published in the British Journal of Surgery in July 2021. All of Wichitra’s research was underpinned by the use of human tissue and patient-based research, which FRAME believes has far greater potential to be relevant to human health than most animal-based research.

This year, we were pleased to launch our Impetus Project, led by our Policy and Projects Intern, Jessie Hellier. The project sought views from researchers working in academia and industry, including funders, third sector organisations and anyone with expert knowledge of animal and non-animal methods (or New Approach Methods, NAMs), to identify the areas where more needs to be done to accelerate animal replacement. The results of the survey will be discussed by an expert panel, before being compiled into a report that will allow us to identify where the most impact could be made towards the replacement of animals in the short and long term. Stay tuned for further updates in 2022!

People

At the beginning of the year, we were delighted to welcome Catriona Sinclair to FRAME as Fundraising Manager to build on our engagement and outreach work and strengthen relationships with stakeholders. Catriona is responsible for generating income for charitable activities and keeping in regular contact with the charity’s donors and supporters, as well as connecting individuals, businesses, and other organisations with FRAME’s work.

In February 2021, Margarita Kalamara, Molecular Microbiology PhD student at the University of Dundee, joined FRAME as an intern as part of the Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS) scheme, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s (BBSRC) through the East of England Bioscience (EASTBIO) Doctoral Training Partnership. At FRAME, Margarita carried out a project reviewing the provision of experimental design and 3Rs training on PhD courses at universities across the UK, with the aim of identifying where improvements can be made and how FRAME can influence change. Margarita’s final report highlights large variety in mandatory and optional training provision between universities and institutions.

Our Board of Trustees saw further growth this year with the addition of Dr Anja Petrie, a Named Veterinary Surgeon (NVS) and the Named Information Officer (NIO) at the University of Aberdeen. Dr Carol Treasure, the founder and CEO of specialist animal-free contract testing laboratory XCellR8, was also appointed as the new Chair.  Both Anja and Carol have brought their extensive scientific expertise and experience to the Board to help guide our strategic direction.

Christmas miceThank you!

We would like to say a huge thank you, to you – our supporters. We are immensely grateful to have such a warm group of advocates helping us through offering partnerships and providing donations and critical advice.

We are honoured to be able to work on your behalf to create a future where non-animal methods are considered scientific best practice and animals are no longer used in medical or scientific research. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible.

Wishing you a safe and joyful festive period, and a very happy new year.

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