CRACK IT Challenges for 2020 announced

Up to £3.5 million funding is available through the 2020 CRACK IT Challenges competition, run by NC3Rs, the National Centre for the Replacement, Reduction and Refinement of the use of animals in medical research.

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Opportunity Details


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Phase 1: The Review Panel recommends funding up to three (3) projects to deliver proof-of-concept studies. Contracts are up to six (6) months with funding of up to £100k. Phase 2: Following presentation of proof-of-concept, the Challenge Panel recommends up to one (1) project to support in Phase 2 to address the full Challenge requirements. Entry into Phase 2 is dependent on successful completion of Phase 1. Contracts are up to three (3) years with funding of up to £1 million.


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CRACK IT Challenges is a 3Rs funding competition for collaborative R&D, run by the NC3Rs to deliver marketable 3Rs products or services for end-users across the bioscience sector. Two-phase Challenges are run using the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) provided by Innovate UK (part of UKRI).

The Challenges

Immunomodulatory therapeutics can cause immunotoxicity through on-target enhancement of the immune response. For immune modulating biologics this is assessed in the in vivo T-cell antibody response assay usually carried out in non-human primates. This two-phase Challenge aims to develop a human in vitro T-cell dependent antibody response (TDAR) assay to assess the immune enhancement properties of preclinical immunomodulatory therapeutics.

There is increasing interest to remove animal-derived products from in vitro assays to improve human relevance and reproducibility, and to reduce the use of animals. This two-phase Challenge aims to adapt established Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) Test Guideline (TG) in vitro assays so that they are free from animal-derived products, delivering a robust, human-relevant (and preferably chemically-defined) version of the assays that demonstrates improved data quality and reproducibility.

Animal models used in the testing of novel wound therapeutics are invasive and poorly predictive. This two-phase Challenge aims to produce a human-relevant and high throughput in vitro or ex vivo platform that recapitulates the complex structures of skeletal muscle and the pathology of significant injury to them.

Millions of mice are used worldwide in research each year. Ensuring any pain or suffering is kept to a minimum requires careful monitoring of the animals so that appropriate action can be taken, and human endpoints implemented. This single-phase Challenge aims to develop an app that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to automatically detect changes in facial expression and/or body condition, to improve the monitoring of mouse welfare.

Tamoxifen is used in the temporal and spatial expression or deletion of genes in mice. However, rodent diet containing tamoxifen is bitter and not readily consumed by mice leading to weight loss. As a result, Tamoxifen is typically administered using invasive methods such as oral gavage. This single-phase Challenge aims to develop a method that allows tamoxifen to be added to rodent chow without changing its palatability or consumption by the animals.

Interested in applying for one of this year’s Challenges?

NC3Rs are hosting a series of webinars from 7-10 September 2020 to launch the 2020 CRACK IT Challenges competition. Each webinar will feature a specific Challenge and will include presentations providing an overview of the CRACK IT Challenges programme and how to apply, details of the specific Challenge and an opportunity to ask questions. To register, please visit the NC3Rs Innovation Platform.

Further information about the CRACK IT Challenge competition process can be found on the NC3Rs Innovation Platform.

The competition is open to any UK or European Union (EU) body, public or private. Applications can be from single organisations or investigators or from consortia. The lead applicant must be UK or EU based.


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