Summer School prodigy Niamh returns for world first antibodies project
Published on August 17, 2021
Summer School Class of 2018 graduate Niamh Haslett has joined the Animal Free Research UK team for two ground-breaking projects.
The PhD student has as part of a Knowledge Exchange partnership between the charity and the University of Hertfordshire been appointed Science Project Coordinator.
She will as part of a joint team effort help design a new rapid results test for the presence of opioids using novel detection methods without using antibodies taken from animals.
And she will also seek to create an easy-to-use, effective resource database for all scientists to access and help them move towards replacing their animal derived research materials.
Niamh explained: “The current method for testing for opioids requires antibodies retrieved from animals. We aim to find an alternative test by using previous experimental literature, computational techniques, and synthetic chemistry to build up a database of macromolecules that can be used instead of these antibodies.
“And we hope to create a new, more accurate, and easy-to-use test that is designed for humans, with no need for animal use at any point in its creation.”
Opioid misuse has been steadily increasing in the UK over the past decade. According to the Office for National Statistics, deaths from opiate poisoning in the UK have increased by 37% over the last ten years. Roughly 115,000 opioid prescriptions are written in the UK every day.
The new rapid test will immediately detect whether somebody is experiencing an opioid overdose, allowing first responders to deliver lifesaving treatment quicker.
The database resource will help researchers move away from using animal tissues for antibodies by listing commercially available alternatives.
Said Niamh: “There is a staunch lack of awareness – especially among early career scientists like me – of alternatives to animal-derived biomaterials, so I aim to create a collaborative database where researchers can, for example, look to replace animal-derived antibodies for their experiments with suitable animal free products that fits their research needs.”
The database will also allow researchers to add any new alternatives they find that come to market.
“By making animal-free alternatives more accessible, the use of animals will hopefully decrease.”
Becoming an animal free scientist was fuelled by her Animal Free Research UK funded Summer Student Programme experience.
“The funding I received from supporters like you through the Summer Student Programme in 2018 allowed me to dedicate eight weeks to a research project I would otherwise not have been able to undertake. I gained research experience, was exposed to professional environments, and developed valuable skills I still rely on today. The experience was vital to my career progression. I was able to get real hands-on experience with novel research techniques and find a passion for animal free research methodologies. Thank you for your support!”.
Niamh hails from rural Northern Ireland growing up surrounded by animals.
“I am passionate about their welfare and have been involved with their care since I was a kid. This led me to follow a plant-based lifestyle and actively advocate for animal rights. My parents both work in healthcare and they inspired me to pursue chemistry in a way that would lead to the betterment of people’s lives”.
“My undergraduate degree in pharmaceutical science at University of Hertfordshire introduced me to the good work that Animal Free Research UK have been doing for 50 years. This opportunity to work for Animal Free Research UK will allow me to become a scientist without compromising on my own morals. I am ecstatic to be a part of the future of research that is compassionate, improved – and most importantly, animal free.”
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