On 3 February, the Federal Council launched a new National Research Programme entitled ‘Advancing 3R – Animals, Research and Society’ and tasked the Swiss National Science Foundation with conducting the programme (see press release in German). The programme has funds worth CHF 20 million and will run over five years.
The SNSF will launch a call for project proposals for NRP 79 in spring 2021. Questions regarding proposal submissions should be addressed to the SNSF directly.
On 3 February 2021, the Federal Council launched a new national research programme on the topic of "Advancing 3Rs - Animals, Research and Society". The main objectives of the programme are to reduce the number of animal experiments in scientific research, to improve animal experimentation and to develop basic principles on ethical and societal aspects in this field. The programme, which is endowed with 20 million Swiss francs, will last five years.
The National Research Programme (NRP) 79 "Advancing 3Rs - Animals, Research and Society" aims to demonstrably reduce the number of animal experiments in scientific research and thus also the number of laboratory animals required. The stress on laboratory animals in experiments and in husbandry is also to be significantly minimised. On the other hand, ethical, legal, social, cultural and economic aspects of animal experiments are being researched within the framework of this NRP.
3R stands for Replacement, Reduction and Refinement. The aim of the so-called 3R principles is to replace animal experiments in scientific research as far as possible with alternative experimental methods (replacement), to reduce the total number of animal experiments and the number of animals per experiment (reduction), to reduce the stress on the animals through improved experimental and housing conditions (refinement), and to increase the overall knowledge gain per animal used.
The NRP envisages three research priorities (modules):
"Innovation": The focus is on innovations for the development, validation or improvement of methods and instruments. Research projects that can advance the 3R principles in specific research areas (e.g. artificial skin) but also in general (e.g. statistical tools in experimental design) are to be funded.
"Implementation: opportunities and barriers": In this module, recommendations for improved knowledge transfer of 3R principles into practice will be developed. Barriers to the implementation of 3Rs principles will be identified and strategies for implementation will be developed.
"Ethics and society": The focus is on the ethical and societal aspects of 3Rs and the use of animals for scientific purposes, as well as research into the development of human-animal relationships.
NRP 79 is carried out in close coordination with the 3Rs Competence Centre, which was founded in 2018 and is financially supported by the federal government.
With the National Research Programmes, the Confederation funds research projects that can contribute to solving current questions and challenges of national importance. The Swiss National Science Foundation is responsible for the implementation. NRPs are concluded after a period of about five years and their results are communicated to the public. At the request of the EAER, the Federal Council periodically decides on the implementation and financial framework of NRPs.