Last week I had the privilege of attending the Institute of Animal Technology (IAT) Congress 2019. Founded in 1950, the IAT is the UK’s leading professional body for animal technologists, promoting excellence in the care and welfare of animals in research. With the 3Rs - refinement, reduction and replacement - at its core, the IAT provides further opportunities for animal technologists to train, develop and help maintain high animal welfare standards in the laboratories in which they work. And this is where the Andrew Blake Tribute Award comes in.
The Andrew Blake Tribute Award, sponsored by the ABPI, is given by the IAT to animal technologists at any level, who have made significant contributions to improving laboratory animal welfare.
This year’s award goes to two deserving winners, Stephen Woodley and Stuart Newman from King’s College London (KCL). Both Stephen and Stuart are very active in the 3Rs, with Stephen sitting on the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research Steering Group, and Stuart being nominated for a global award, as co-author on a 3Rs publication.
Stephen and Stuart's work addresses the issue of mice being kept and continually bred, despite not being used for immediate research purposes. Through the introduction of new techniques, Stephen and Stuart improved services for the cryopreservation of mouse lines, reducing the number of mice being maintained at any one time. Having received support from colleagues and academics using the facility, these services have since become more widely available, helping to further promote a good culture of care and the 3Rs in KCL and beyond.
Upon reflection of receiving this award, Stuart said:
“The 3Rs and good culture of care is paramount in our work. It’s a privilege to be given this award and is good reflection of the work we’ve done at KCL as a team”.
Reflecting on what this means for KCL’s facility, Stephen said:
“It’s an honour for someone who has been working in animal technology for 16yrs, to be given this prestigious award. It allows us to demonstrate further the work KCL is doing in reduction and refinement in the use of animals for research. The team and I will continue to work on optimising refinement and cryopreservation in the facility”.
Animal technologists are widely recognised as essential to the research workforce, helping to conduct research experiments and ensuring the 3Rs are adhered to and incorporated into research culture. Since starting to survey our members regularly about skills gaps in 2005, we have always included this key role in the survey, as animal technologists are regarded by the pharmaceutical industry as providing a critical skill-set. In our latest ABPI Skills Survey, 50% of weighted respondents considered concerns about recruitment to such roles to be a medium priority. We will continue to support the role of animal technologists and ensure the UK has the skilled workforce needed to conduct ground-breaking research.
The Andrew Blake Tribute Award commemorates the work of Andrew Blake, who died in 2002 aged 39, having suffered from a hereditary neurological disease. Andrew advocated strongly for the medical science sector and defended the life-saving work of scientists and spoke out against the unfounded accusations of animal rights activists.
It is a regulatory requirement to test potential new medicines in animals before they can be tested in humans, and through working collaborations with the National Centre for the 3Rs, the ABPI is committed to improving animal welfare and care in the life science sector. Read more about the ABPI and research using animals.
The ABPI is committed to improving animal welfare and care in the life science sector.
Dr Jennifer Harris, Discovery and Research Policy Executive, ABPI