Fundamental (or basic) research in medicine and biology is done to try to find out more about what keeps humans and animals alive and healthy. It is important to understand exactly how the different tissues and organs of the body work when healthy, and to find out what goes wrong when disease strikes.
In the past, animal research was vital for discoveries such as how the kidneys work, or how hormones control different parts of the body. Today, basic research in many areas of biology and medicine still needs to use animals. A good example is the brain: there is still a lot we do not know about how it works and if we are to find answers to these important questions, fundamental research must continue.
Fundamental research is to medicine as the foundations are to a house: if you haven't laid the foundations properly then the house will either fall down or be impossible to build in the first place. The understanding gained by fundamental research often feeds into the more applied medical research that ultimately leads to new medicines.
Basic research accounts for just over a quarter of all animal procedures carried out in the UK. For more information on numbers of animals used in the UK, including the latest statistics, see here.