Whilst the Division of Biological Services remains
optimistic about the future of MRC's NIMR in partnership with
UCL or KCL we foresee a number of major disadvantages to moving
away from the Mill Hill site. These are principally:
Loss of potential for expansion. The
current Mill Hill site is located on a 47 acre site, only a fraction
of which has been built upon. There is more than adequate space
for expanding the animal facilities within the current buildings
as well as constructing new units/buildings on the site within
the secure perimeter fence. Future changes in legislation are
likely to require larger rodent cagestherefore the space
required to house our current numbers of animals is likely to
increase, this can easily be accommodated at Mill Hill and must
form part of the considerations of a site elsewhere.
Loss of flexibility. The
animal facilities occupy six buildings on the current site, all
within a short distance from the main building. This provides
unequalled flexibility to house different species, meet the needs
of changing science and changes in legislation. The health status
of the different units can be managed individually within central
control minimising any disruption to the science in the event
of a microbiological breakdown and the flexibility to treat, contain
or rederive stocks quickly and efficiently.
Reduced access to research models. All
the current animal facilities are within easy reach of the main
building and therefore scientists and support staff have access
and a hands-on approach to the use of animals in their research.
This is extremely important to ensure best use of animals and
a responsible attitude to using animals in research with easy
communication with animal care staff and experienced animal technicians.
This ensures work is done promptly whilst ensuring the highest
standards of care & welfare. We firmly believe that an animal
unit remote from the science cannot encourage or meet best practice
or ensure minimum numbers are used.
Difficulties in staff recruitment. Many
of the animal facilities within central London are experiencing
problems with recruitment and retention of animal technicians.
This is not a problem at NIMR. Currently, 70 out of 71 posts within
Biological Services are filled. Experience from the Mary Lyon
Centre should demonstrate the importance of having enough trained
and committed technicians to stock a new unit. Experience from
many animal units across the UK demonstrates that difficulties
arise when there is a mix of MRC & University employees in
Waste. Apart from a waste
of money and resources (a new SPF facility was opened at NIMR
less than two years ago) the likely increased waste of animals
is of concern to many within the Division and Institute as a whole.
Currently our operations can provide models to a number of different
research groups and sharing tissues and organs is commonplace.
Inability to recreate containment
facilities. This poses a real problem. Our Containment
II to IV facilities have been carefully designed and managed to
be able to meet the needs of the current work carried out in them,
but also with adaptability and flexibility to be used for new
models or potentially emerging diseases.
Loss of training resources. Our
facilities, especially those for Containment of pathogen infected
animals, Aquatics and Transgenic species are of importance for
training both scientific staff and animal technicians without
impinging on the "day-to-day" work of the units. This
would be hard to recreate elsewhere.
Potential loss of SPF facilities. Our
SPF facilities are unique and keep cost of animal supply at a
very low level. There is a long list of practical advantages for
retaining an MRC SPF supply unit: refinement and reduction of
numbers due to critical mass/scale of the operations is a good
example. It would be very difficult to recreate new SPF facilities
and the time involved would impede progress of science.
Reduced cost-effectiveness. Alongside
our SPF facilities, the scale of the animal work at NIMR ensures
a cost-effective practicecommonly as units decrease in
size they become more expensive to run and maintain.
Likely animal rights protests. Experience
from Oxford and Cambridge indicates a likely problem from animal
rights activists during the construction of new animal facilities.
Additional security problems. It
is unlikely that the protests that are observed on a Wednesday
at Mill Hill will go away. The experience in dealing with this,
and the safety of the site should not be ignored.
Time involved in moving animal
models. Duplication of models. Even if the SPF units could
be moved as they stand, the remaining models at Mill Hill will
need to be recreated elsewhere. This is a mammoth undertaking,
as well as likely to increase the numbers of animals used (surgical
rederivation of strains) and a huge and needless cull of animals
at Mill Hill. There would be a significant time involved to recreate
lines (see Mary Lyon centre) and therefore a delay in productive
Accessibility of site for deliveries
etc. The Mill Hill site is easily accessible for the continual
need for deliveries of animal food, bedding and other essential
supplies. Central London will have reduced access and is therefore
a huge disadvantage.
MRC-T's reliance on animal units. MRC-T
currently requires the facilities of NIMR for translational research
requiring animal modelsloss of the Mill Hill facilities
would be a huge blow to their work.