NC3Rs announces challenge which aims to end the bioscience sector’s dependence on using animals for testing.
The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) has announced a ‘Virtual Second Species’ challenge with a £2.7m prize for anyone who can devise a solution to the use of animals, particularly drug testing dogs, in R&D.
This competition is part of the CRACK IT Challenges competition to discover a solution that will replace the need animal testing within the science community.
Participants in the NC3Rs are encouraged to create virtual models of dogs based off of existing dog study data from previous experiments, with the aim of improving animal welfare, increasing efficiency, and of course lowering costs.
Several years ago, the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB) created a platform called konfer, in which the NC3Rs will use to reach over 150,000 academics from universities around the world.
The challenge set out by NC3Rs is for tech innovators to create digital dogs to predict the negative effects of drugs before they go to human trials.
The collaborative effort to revise the need for animal testing in the bioscience sector forms a part of NC3Rs wider ‘CRACK IT Challenge’ with the laudable goal of eliminating animal testing completely.
This competition has been put together by NC3Rs, in collaboration with eTransafe and Simomics, with sponsorship from Bayer AG, Eli Lilly and Company, Genentech Inc., Gilead Sciences Inc., GSK, Merck Healthcare KGaA and Roche.
It’s hoped anyone entering the competition will develop models using advanced mathematical modelling and machine learning combined with years of previous testing data to help predict unexpected side effects of drugs without the need to test on animals.
As it stands, two species are required to test for negative reactions: a rodent and a non-rodent. Last year, 2,082 experiments used dogs, and NC3Rs hopes to reduce that figure.
Even worse, the current method of using two animals doesn’t always even reveal adverse effect that could affect a human, leading to an unnecessary waste of animal life.
It’s hoped the competition will reduce the cost of drug testing and increase the speed of which new drugs can reach the market safely, and of course save thousands of animals’ lives.
We are excited to be using konfer to connect with the UK’s leading innovators and academics. As we seek to shift the paradigm of the use of dogs in drug testing, we’re keen to make use of the large amounts of dog study data within pharmaceutical companies to create a virtual dog to determine drug toxicities. Konfer’s smart-matching technology offers a speedy, cost-effective route to collaboration, and we look forward to working alongside the UK’s brightest minds to tackle an acute issue in drug development. – Dr Anthony Holmes, Director of Science and Technology at the NC3Rs
It is hoped that by making these solution opportunities more accessible, then the UK will become a global hub for innovation by 2035:
As the government pursue their vision of making the UK a global hub for innovation by 2035, it is important that we simplify collaboration between universities and businesses. The NC3Rs ‘Virtual Second Species’ Challenge is a prime example of meaningful and game-changing innovation, addressing the major matter of animal testing that continues to persist even today.
It is our hope that by making it easier for organisations such as the NC3Rs and academics to find each other, we can facilitate the creation of productive, innovative and of course, meaningful coalitions that will improve lives. – Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive Officer at NCUB