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New investment in mouse research to enhance national coordination and collaboration

by Guest Author on 13 Dec 2019

Following on from previous blog posts discussing our commitment to mouse-based research and our strategic review of mouse genetics, here our Executive Chair Professor Fiona Watt sets out the MRC’s plans for a national network of mouse research excellence, with the Mary Lyon Centre positioned at its heart.

Small experimental mouse is on the researcher's hand

The MRC Council recently considered the recommendations of the MRC strategic review of mouse genetics and the role of the MRC Harwell Institute, which comprises the Mammalian Genetics Unit (MGU) and the Mary Lyon Centre (MLC). The Council concluded that future investment in mouse genetics should move away from large, hypothesis-free genome-wide programmes and focus instead on more targeted programmes that are integrated with human disease modelling.

The MLC should be retained as a national hub providing world-class expertise, tools and resources for mouse research, training, and mouse archiving and distribution. Academic research should continue alongside the MLC but should be refocused to capitalize on the specific interdisciplinary opportunities on the Harwell campus.

The Council concluded that the MGU should close and be replaced by a new national network of distributed research clusters that promote join-up between mouse and human genetics, disease modelling, cell and tissue systems and deep phenotyping.

National coordination will drive the open science and 3Rs agendas by optimising the production, archiving and availability of mouse resources and data for national use. This will also provide an attractive platform for industry engagement at a time when the life sciences sector is seeking better predictive models for drug development.

The first step in taking forward these ambitions will be extensive engagement with the research community and recruitment of a national director who is empowered to lead the network and its investments. The new investments and networking activities will be established over a 12-18 month period and supported through renewable 5-yearly investment.

I recognise that the outcome of the strategic review will have a significant impact on Harwell staff. The MRC will continue to support them during this period of change.

The Council has reiterated MRC’s commitment to ensure that all PhD students can complete their doctoral studies and to support the career development of post-docs at Harwell during this transition period. The Council agreed to extend Harwell Institute core funding by two years until the end of March 2022 and to support MGU group leaders who wish to relocate their research to alternative host institutions.

I will visit the Harwell Institute early in the New Year to talk through these plans and discuss how we can best support staff.

Read previous blog posts published in June and July that discussed the purpose of strategic reviews and our commitment to mouse-based research.


I understand that alternatives to animal testing are being developed in the field of in-vitro testing and computer modelling.
Is there a target date for phasing out animal testing entirely?

author avatar by Wendi Dwyer on 16-Dec-2019 13:15

Replying to Wendi Dwyer

Hi Wendi,

The MRC is highly committed to the principles of the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) and for many decades has played an active role in developing and disseminating the principles. This includes the provision of core funding for the National Centre for 3Rs (NC3Rs) and through research into 3Rs which continues to be of high importance.

There have been significant advances in biomedical science and technologies which provide new opportunities to reduce the reliance on the use of animals in research. This includes stem cell research, cell culture systems that mimic the function of human organs, imaging and new computer modelling techniques. However, many areas of science are dependent on the use of animals and while technologies are emerging that have 3Rs benefits, most take time to validate and get into routine use. The MRC believes the carefully regulated use of animals in scientific research will remain a vital tool in improving the understanding of how biological systems work in order to facilitate the development of safe new medicines, treatments and technologies for the foreseeable future.

All the best,

Petra (MRC Digital Content Editor)

author avatar by petra kiviniemi on 23-Dec-2019 14:01

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