Animal Research

Research using animals has contributed to many of the medical advances we now take for granted.  These include vaccines and antibiotics to prevent and treat infections, anaesthetics used in surgery, and medicines that enable us to effectively manage serious conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure. 

Although science and technological advances have reduced the need to use animals in some types of experiments, use of animals is still required in many areas of biomedical research.  At the Francis Crick Institute, research involving animals enables us to understand basic physiological processes and the mechanisms underlying major human diseases such as cancer, infectious diseases, genetic, developmental and neurological disorders. 

Research involving animals is not undertaken lightly and the Crick only uses animals in research programmes where their use is essential. We are committed to the principles of the 3Rs: Replacement (methods which avoid or replace the use of animals), Reduction (methods which minimise the number of animals used and increase data per animal), and Refinement (methods which minimise suffering and improve animal welfare). Alternatives to the use of animals such as cell cultures and computer modelling have greatly reduced the number of animals used particularly in the early stages of research. However these alternatives cannot fully mimic the complex interactions found in bodily systems.  

Research involving animals is regulated by the Home Office and may only be carried out under licence. To gain a licence, both the potential scientific and medical benefits of the research, and the possible effect on the animals used, are weighed up carefully before any animal research project can proceed. All establishments designated for animal research are subject to regular unannounced inspections by Home Office Inspectors to ensure compliance and good practice. 

Almost all the Crick's research involving animals will use mice, rats, fish, frogs, fruit flies or nematode worms. We will also use small numbers of ferrets and laboratory opossums because they offer the best model for particular human diseases. 

For example, current research on flu uses ferrets, because they are susceptible to the strains of flu that infect humans: it causes similar symptoms and it runs a similar course. The swine flu pandemic of 2009 caused 14,286 confirmed deaths worldwide. 

The Crick is a signatory of the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK which sets out how organisations report the use of animals in scientific, medical and veterinary research in the UK. 

This page is under development. For further information about the Crick's use of animals in research, please see our Animals in Research Policy.