An action plan to encourage students to develop skills in animal research is proposed in a joint report from the Biosciences Federation and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), launched today.


​As well as helping the UK maintain its leadership in medicines discovery and development, such skills are essential in reducing, refining and replacing animals in such work.

The action plan – necessary because of a growing difficulty in finding staff with appropriate in vivo skills – calls for measures to raise student interest in developing such skills as well as a joint drive to provide employer-focused post-graduate degrees.

“The future of medicines development in this country depends to a large extent on having people with the right in vivo skills. Significant progress has already been made through joint public and private sector working, and we all need to work in partnership so that the UK can retain its historical strengths in this area,” said Dr Richard Barker, Director General of the ABPI.

Dr Richard Dyer, Chief Executive of the Biosciences Federation, said: “As well as creating a targeted package of employer-led action to support existing initiatives, the underlying factors behind the decline in numbers need to be tackled. Success in the long term will depend on the scientific community recognising that in vivo techniques are not just an optional ‘add-on’ at the end of a scientific process.”

The report shows that employer demand for these skills has been stable over the past 10 years, but supply has declined. Three-quarters of relevant employers – universities, public sector, charity research organisations and the pharmaceutical industry – are finding it “difficult” or “very difficult” to find suitably qualified staff.

The report recommends that:

  • The overall number of employer placements with in vivo work is increased by at least 50 per cent.
  • Some 36 MSc places are fully funded over the next three years to provide exposure to in vivo techniques.
  • The number of PhDs that use in vivo techniques is increased.

Sub-disciplines that include in vivo techniques – pharmacology, physiology, toxicology and pathology – should be recognised as Strategically Important and Vulnerable Subjects, a formal Government classification that recognises their importance to the economy and society but recognises their vulnerability because of low student demand.

The investigation was facilitated by the former Department of Trade and Industry, which has been replaced by the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).

For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410

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