The University of Cambridge has been recognised as a Leader in Openness 2019-2022 for "the innovation and courage shown by individuals and the organisation in supporting greater openness around the use of animals in research."

Animal research plays an essential role in our understanding of health and disease and in the development of modern medicines and surgical techniques. Without the use of animals, we would not have many of the modern medicines, antibiotics, vaccines and surgical techniques that we take for granted in both human and veterinary medicine.

Some of the important and pioneering work for which Cambridge is best known and which has led to major improvements in people’s lives was only possible using animals, from the development of IVF techniques through to human monoclonal antibodies. Some of the work carried out is fundamental research, aimed at understanding how humans and animals develop and how our immune systems and brains work, for example. This knowledge is essential for underpinning our understanding of health and disease for both medical and veterinary purposes. 

Other work is aimed at tackling specific diseases, for example in helping us understand how Parkinson’s disease affects the brain and motor system and how it might be tackled, or in developing new treatments for autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

Animal research is only undertaken where there is no alternative. We always use the most appropriate species: in the vast majority of cases, this involves using mice, rats and zebrafish. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to use species that are closer to humans in size or development.

"Animal research is essential for the development of new drugs and vaccines for COVID-19, which it is hoped can prevent thousands of further deaths. Existing drugs, developed using animals, have also been found to be effective against the virus: Remdesivir, an anti-viral drug that was initially developed using monkeys to treat Ebola, is being used to treat severe cases of COVID-19, and dexamethasone, a steroid originally developed using animal research to treat rheumatoid arthritis, has been found to save the lives of some patients on ventilators." -- Wendy Jarrett, Chief Executive of Understanding Animal Research.

Read the latest animal research news from the University of Cambridge.