St George’s, University of London is committed to developing and adopting alternatives to the use of animals. Most biomedical research at the university is conducted without the need for animals, using a range of alternative methods, including computer modelling, tissue culture, cell and molecular biology techniques and also human trials.
In some circumstances, however, avoiding the use of animals is not yet achievable. This is the case, for example, in finding treatments and cures for life-threatening and seriously debilitating diseases, such as cancer, tuberculosis, Alzheimer’s and HIV/AIDS.
How animal research requests are assessed
St George’s policy is to use non-animal research and to discover alternatives to animal use wherever possible. Before a scientist is allowed to use animals as part of their research program, there are many legal requirements of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act (ASPA) 1986 that must be satisfied. Part of this is providing detailed information and explanation of why animal use is necessary and why there are no alternative method(s) available that might provide useful results.
While the Biological Research Facility (BRF) is closed for refurbishment we are still running a version of the Animal Welfare Ethical Review Body (AWERB) process set out below, monitoring any work that St George’s staff wish to take place at other Establishments, and judging whether it meets our local standards. Establishments within the UK will of course have to comply with ASPA and will have equivalent processes in place to ensure that our proposed work both conforms to their policies and can be fully supported within their facilities.
St George’s local AWERB carefully considers such animal research requests by scientists, taking into account animal welfare requirements and potential harms to the animals, which need to be balanced against the anticipated benefits that this research hopes to provide. Only after the AWERB has thoroughly examined and discussed proposals for research requiring animals, and is fully satisfied that such proposals conform to the university’s policies and the BRF capabilities, may a submission be made to the Home Office for authority under a Project Licence to proceed.
If St George’s AWERB does not approve a programme of research requiring animals, that research will not be conducted at the university.
BRF suitability requirements
Our regular assessments of the BRF physical structure, set out below, identified the need for upgrades that would not be compatible with animals in residence. We therefore instituted a gradual reduction in animal research on-site, while arranging alternative accommodation for ongoing projects. The building is currently closed, and we are taking the opportunity to redesign and refurbish it to the highest possible standard.
As part of the ethical assessment by AWERB, the following aspects of the BRF are regularly reviewed (a minimum of annual inspections, but often much more frequently) to ensure quality of the BRF and resources remain at an optimally high standard:
the physical structure and mechanical plant of the BRF building have not deteriorated and are in good working order
the maintenance programmes (undertaken to maintain facilities in optimal working condition to provide controlled environmental conditions necessary for good animal welfare) are suitable and being complied with.
The technical staff training/competence assessment programme for all aspects of animal husbandry and scientific procedures has been regularly assessed for adequacy and found to be ‘fit for purpose’.