Use of animals in research

PTEN Research is committed to funding medical research that brings us closer to our goal of developing targeted treatments for PTEN hamartoma tumour syndrome (PHTS).

We believe there is an urgent need for research to improve the scientific understanding of the condition and to develop medicines that can improve the lives of people living with PHTS. We fund a broad spectrum of research, including laboratory studies to improve understanding of the mechanism of disease in PHTS, translational work to understand how these new results and insights apply to humans, clinical trials to assess the safety and efficacy of new treatments, as well as observational and data collection studies. Animal research forms a small but vital part of this work.

Funding animal research is not a decision we take lightly. However, we recognize it as a necessary step if we are to make discoveries that will improve the lives of people with PHTS. Almost every major breakthrough in human and veterinary medicine has depended upon the use of animals in research. Despite significant advances in alternative methods such as organ based models (where special cells are grown in a laboratory to produce tissues that mimic the complexity of an organ) and computer simulations, there is not yet an alternative experimental model that can reproduce the complicated workings of the human body. For this reason, it is essential to use animals where no viable alternative option exists.

What do we mean by animal research?

Medical research uses animal models to mimic aspects of a human medical condition. Animal models are living, non-human animals: for example, rodents, worms, fruit flies or fish.

Using animal models allows researchers to model human diseases and test treatments to find out if they are effective and safe before they are assessed in humans.

Policy statement

PTEN Research is committed to promoting the 3Rs - Replacement, Reduction and Refinement of animals in research in all projects it funds, and to ensuring that the highest regulatory standards are maintained.

Research teams in the United Kingdom must gain permission from both central Government and local ethical reviews to conduct research in animals. As part of this approval process, each medical research project using animals must be examined and ways to improve adoption of the 3Rs are considered. These are:

  • Replace the use of animals with alternative research methods and where possible avoid the use of animals altogether.
  • Reduce the number of animals used.
  • Refine how animal-based experiments are carried out to minimise any suffering and to improve animal welfare.

The European Directive 2010/63/EU, which promotes both animal welfare and high-quality scientific research, was adopted in 2010. The directive became law in the UK on 1 January 2013 through amendments to the UK Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. The UK government remains committed to restate retained EU law in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which will maintain protections for animals and improve the clarity of UK law. 

PTEN Research is fully committed to these principles and all of our research abides by rules set out by the Home Office. Under this system, animals can only be used when there is no alternative. We believe organisations should go beyond any legal minimums, so we're proud and active signatories to the Concordant on Openness on Animal Research.

When we fund research that involves animals outside of the UK and EU we ensure that the highest local ethical and regulatory standards are upheld.


PTEN Research takes every measure necessary to ensure that our policy on animal research is implemented effectively and that our promise to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals in research is upheld by our grant recipients.

Funding conditions: PTEN Research requires scientists we fund and work with to act strictly in accordance with all relevant laws and to comply with guidance documents. The research we fund is implemented by leading scientists in the field, who adhere to strict institutional and national regulations governing the use of animals in research. All applicants are required to acquire ethical approval for planned studies.

Grant application requirements: PTEN Research requires grant applicants to provide justification for their use of animals, including species and numbers. Researchers are encouraged to use the NC3R’s experimental design resources, including the online Experimental Design Assistant and the ARRIVE guidelines, to improve reproducibility and reporting of research involving animals.