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Animal Research at Brunel

Without the use of animals in research, our understanding of human health and disease would be greatly diminished and we would not have many of the medicines and advanced treatment techniques we use today. This knowledge helps to save and improve countless human, and indeed animal, lives. Research using animals is often the only way to enhance our understanding and to ensure that newly developed medicines and treatments are safe to use.

Brunel students enrolled on relevant BSc and MSc degrees are taught aspects of animal research concerning mechanisms of disease and ways in which this work is useful to research new treatments that may ultimately go on to treat disease in humans. Topics include diseases such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, disorders leading to blindness, obesity, congenital diseases and acquired diseases. Students are informed in a balanced manner of the importance and limitations of animal research and the need to take care of our animals whilst research is being undertaken. 

As a research-led institution, Brunel University London is committed to the policy provided by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research. Animals are only used in research where no suitable non-animal alternative exists. Brunel is at the forefront of 3Rs research and has recently been successful as one of only three European winners of an Innovate UK Phase I challenge on this topic.

Compliance with strict national regulations is monitored by Brunel staff, along with a veterinary surgeon and a Home Office inspector. All researchers carrying out regulated procedures involving animals must have extensive training in order to receive the necessary licence authority from the Home Office, and are monitored by our veterinary surgeon and more experienced colleagues. The Brunel Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Board strive to reduce the use of animals wherever possible and ensure that all research involving animals has prior ethical approval. The potential benefits of the research must always be carefully weighed against any effects on the animals concerned.

Currently, animal research conducted at the University is confined to mice, fish and invertebrates such as snails. Since no method of reproducing the complex biological characteristics of humans and animals exists, the University places great importance on the welfare of animals used in research. We ensure that the accommodation, procedures and care routines are regularly reviewed, and that a high standard of humane care is maintained at all times. For example, Brunel has recently invested in a state-of-the-art rodent facility.

Procedure statistics

All scientific procedures carried out at the University are regulated. As explained by the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986:

A procedure is regulated if it is carried out on a protected animal for a scientific or educational purpose and may cause that animal a level of pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm equivalent to, or higher than, that caused by inserting a hypodermic needle according to good veterinary practice. This is referred to as the lower threshold. 

The University's statistics on the use of animals in research are reported annually to the Home Office. The statistics are laid out in the tables below, and show that a very small number of animals have experienced the 'severe' level of severity.

Procedures by species
   2021  2022 2023
Mice   1,097 (39%)  1,792 (93%) 1,153 (89%)
Fish  1,711 (61%)  138 (7%) 148 (11%)
Total  2,808  1,930 1,301
Procedures by severity
   2021  2022 2023
Sub-threshold  380 (14%)  415 (22%) 942 (72%)
Mild  924 (33%)  1,363 (71%) 271 (21%)
Moderate  1,499 (53%)  151 (8%) 84 (6%)
Severe  5 (0.2%)  4 (0.2%) 4 (0.3%)
Non-recovery  0 (0%)  0 (0%) 0 (0%)
Totals 2,808 1,930 1,301

Definitions of severity categories are explained by the UK government's advisory notes on severity. Percentages might not add to 100% because of rounding to the nearest whole number.

Brunel supports and endorses the ARRIVE Guidelines (Animal Research: Reporting in Vivo Experiments), which are intended to improve the quality of reporting of animal research in order to maximise valuable information published and minimise unnecessary studies.

Concordat ColBrunel University London is a signatory to the Concordat on Openness in Animal Research, which helps us continue to take practical steps towards openness and transparency in our animal research.