Otago reveals $50m animal research facility plan

The University of Otago says the centre will future-proof its status as a leading scientific institution.
The University of Otago says the centre will future-proof its status as a leading scientific institution.

The University of Otago has announced plans for a new $50 million, five-storey animal research facility to be built at an undisclosed location.

The 3936sq m building on the university's South Campus will be used for health and biomedical research.

The deputy vice-chancellor for research and enterprise, Professor Richard Blaikie, said the facility would future-proof the university's position as a leading scientific institution.

"Our researchers will continue to be able to contribute to the large body of knowledge gained from animal-based research ... a vital component in many major advances in medicine and science."

Existing animal research facilities were nearly 50 years old and "coming towards the end of their practical life".

At present, animal research facilities were housed in university departments.

The facility would benefit the public by advancing research in areas including cancer, diabetes, obesity, fertility and neuroscience, he said.

Construction was scheduled to start in August and be completed in February 2018.

The facility would provide the "highest standard of care" for the animals used in research, Dr Blaikie said.

"The Research Support Facility will provide an environment to meet that care, complementing the stringent ethical criteria applied by the university to all animal research before it is initiated and including the principles of reduction, replacement and refinement where possible."

The latest technology offered at the facility would also enhance animal welfare and husbandry, he said.

The new building would not mean a rise in the number of animals involved in research, or animal research staff.

Figures from 2012 show more than 25,000 animals died during research projects and teaching at Otago since 2009. Animals used for research include mice, rats, guinea pigs, birds and pigs.

Last year, the university attracted criticism from animal rights groups after it was discovered live pigs were shot in the head as part of a study to measure back-spatter from gunshot wounds.

Otago said using pigs helped to confirm whether a model head made for the study "successfully approximated an actual human head".

- NZ Herald

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