Avacta to develop novel reagents to reduce use of animals in life sciences research

Yorkshire-based Avacta Group has been awarded a grant to work with the Mary Lyon Centre at MRC Harwell to develop novel Affimer reagents which could help reduce the use of animals in life sciences research.

Genetically engineered mice are a widely used and essential tool in biomedical research and drug development. If the efficiency of the mice breeding programmes could be improved, the cost of production would be reduced and fewer animals would be required, providing ethical as well as commercial benefits.

Dr Alastair Smith, Avacta Group CEO, said: “We are grateful to NC3Rs for providing the funding that will allow us to develop Affimer inhibitors of inhibin, which we will provide to MRC Harwell for evaluation. If successful then there is a potentially very large global market for such Affimer reagents that will reduce the costs of production and the number of mice used each year in breeding programmes. We are delighted to be working with MRC Harwell on this project which could also open the way to applications in human IVF treatments.”

Avacta has been awarded a CRACK IT Solutions technology partnering grant by NC3Rs, a UK-based scientific organisation dedicated to replacing, refining and reducing the use of animals in life sciences research. The grant provides funding for Avacta to develop Affimer inhibitors of a protein called inhibin. Inhibiting the action of this protein stimulates the production of greater numbers of embryos per mouse, a process called superovulation, which increases overall efficiency of a breeding programme. The Mary Lyon Centre at MRC Harwell, a world-leading centre for functional mouse genomics providing expertise, tools and facilities to generate mouse models of human disease, will evaluate the ability of the Affimer reagents to induce superovulation in mice.

A good inhibin inhibitor could reduce the number of mice needed for embryo production by 100,000 animals a year in the UK alone. When this is scaled up to the number of mice used in breeding programmes globally, there are substantial cost savings to be made in the production of genetically engineered mouse models as well as a significant reduction in animal use. The market for an Affimer reagent that induces superovulation in mice could therefore be substantial.

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