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UFAW 3Rs Liaison Studentship 2012-2015

7 April 2015

Replacing animals in research'Development of mycobacterial growth inhibition assays for early evaluation and gating of novel TB vaccine candidates'.

UFAW funds a 3Rs liaison group studentship to Reduce, Refine or Replace the use of animals in scientific research and testing. The current studentship awarded to Rachel Tanner under the supervision of Professor Helen McShane at the University of Oxford aims to replace or reduce the use of animals in Tuberculosis vaccine development and testing.

Tuberculosis continues to pose an enormous global health challenge; in 2013 9 million people were infected with TB and 1.3 million died. There is a desperate need for an improved vaccine against TB as the current BCG vaccine is of relatively low efficacy, especially in the tropics where TB incidence is highest. Current TB vaccine research is heavily dependent upon the use of animals, and involves infecting many animals with the TB bacterium. Rachel is working to develop an assay to determine vaccine efficacy in vitro which could drastically reduce the number of animals used in the initial vaccine testing stages. Two years into her three year project Rachel’s research shows that in vitro tests correlate well with in vivo bacterium challenges and that the proposed in vitro system may be a viable approach both to vaccine testing and the elucidation of the mechanisms by which vaccines protect from TB. In the final phase of this project, the utility of the assay will be investigated in the context of testing novel TB vaccine candidates . Whilst much work remains to be done before the use of animals in TB vaccine research can be replaced, Rachel’s work has shown that there is reason to hope that in future we can make progress in the fight against TB with much less reliance on animal models.