About animal research
Understanding the basic biology of infections, injuries and chronic diseases is an essential step in finding new treatments and cures. From cancer to malaria and war wounds to heart disease, research using animals forms an important element of Imperial's work.
The College believes that the use of animals in research is vital to improve human and animal health and welfare. Animals may only be used in research programmes where their use is shown to be necessary for developing new treatments and making medical advances. Imperial is committed to ensuring that, in cases where this research is deemed essential, all animals in the College’s care are treated with full respect, and that all staff involved with this work show due consideration at every level.
When planning research, Imperial scientists always consider alternatives to animal research such as computer models and working on cells in the lab. They look for different methods that can replace animal research or reduce the number of animals involved, and they search for ways to improve their methods to decrease animal suffering. Researchers will only proceed when an alternative cannot be found.
Scientists who work with animals are supported by a team of vets and technicians. Together, these staff are responsible for the day to day care of animals as well as helping to train research staff and maintaining high levels of animal welfare. Animals are housed in specially designed units where they can live comfortably. Staff, training and facilities are all geared towards minimising the suffering of animals.
Animal research is strictly regulated by law and overseen by ethical committees. The College as a whole holds a Home Office licence for animal research, and each researcher who works with animals and each new project involving animals requires a separate Home Office licence.
Proposed new research and alterations to ongoing research are examined by an ethics committee made up of a variety of people including vets, animal technicians, scientists, and lay people who are not directly involved in animal research and can bring a fresh perspective to the consideration of research proposals. Ethics committees will discuss the merits and details of proposed research and question whether alternatives methods could be used before they give approval for work to go ahead.
Over 98 per cent of animal research at Imperial involves mice and rats. The remainder, less than two per cent, involves fish; guinea pigs; amphibians, such as frogs; rabbits; ferrets and pigs.