Historic lecture series returns in celebration of openness in animal research
Members of the scientific community gathered at the Wellcome Collection in London for the 78th Stephen Paget Memorial Lecture, the first time that the lecture has been held since 2008.
The Lecture was established in 1927 following the death of Stephen Paget, founder of UAR forerunner the Research Defence Society. Past Paget Lecturers have included Nobel Laureates Sir Howard Florey and Sir Peter Medawar, and renowned evolutionary biologist and science writer Professor Steve Jones.
Professor Dame Linda Partridge, director of the UCL Institute of Healthy Ageing, delivered a fascinating lecture on “The Science of Healthy Ageing”. Recent work has shown that ageing is malleable to genetic, dietary and pharmacological intervention. She described work in her own laboratory to create an inducible model of Alzheimer’s disease using fruit flies, which shows very similar pathology to the human condition. These findings have opened the way to discovering drugs capable of producing a broad-spectrum improvement in the health of older people.
To mark this historic event, Understanding Animal Research launched the Openness Awards, an annual presentation to celebrate the achievements of the sector in honouring their commitment to the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research. Since the launch in May 2014 the Concordat has brought together 85 UK organisations involved in animal research in a pledge to be more open and transparent about their use of animals in science.
Four awards were presented to people and organisations who have paved the way for the Concordat by showing the sector that openness was possible, even when faced with significant opposition.
Long-time openness advocate Fiona Fox, Director of the Science Media Centre, presented the first award to Professor Sir Colin Blakemore. At a time when to ‘come out’ about animal research in public could lead to significant threats and acts of extremism, Professor Blakemore was a vocal public advocate for the benefits of animal research.
Dr Domenico Spina from the British Pharmacological Society presented the second award to the Medical Research Council in recognition of their constant willingness to work with the press. This work has included the first live radio broadcast from inside the animal facility at MRC Harwell, during which BBC 5 Live journalist Victoria Derbyshire witnessed a mouse being euthanized live on air.
Huntingdon Life Sciences were presented with the third award by Bernadette Kelly of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Despite significant pressure from extremists, including attacks on its staff and suppliers, HLS has always sought to work openly with the media.
Finally, the council of UAR chose to give the final Openness Award to UAR CEO Wendy Jarrett, in recognition of her work to develop the Concordat on Openness, and for acting as a champion of the openness agenda.