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Dr Elisa Passini, a postdoctoral research assistant from the Computational Cardiovascular Science group, which is part of CRE, has officially been awarded the 2017 international prize from the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs).

The £30k award, which is sponsored by GSK, was presented to Elisa in London on the evening of 12th March 2018, by Sir Mark Walport, the Chief Executive Designate of UK Research and Innovation.

Awarded annually, the NC3Rs prize highlights an outstanding and original contribution to scientific and technological advances in the 3Rs. 

The 2017 award recognised Elisa's research with colleagues and Janssen Pharmacaeutica, conducted in Professor Blanca Rodriguez and Dr Alfonso Bueno-Orovio’s group at the University of Oxford’s Department of Computer Science, on an in silico model that predicts cardiotoxicity more accurately than animal studies. 

The winning paper, published in Frontiers in Physiology, describes a drug trial, where 62 drugs and reference compounds were tested at various concentrations in more than a thousand simulations of human heart cells; the computer model predicted risk with 89% accuracy, whereas previous studies on animals had shown 75% accuracy. 

Early predictions of possible heart problems is massively important for drug development, given that 40% of drugs withdrawn from the market between 2001 and 2010 had cardiovascular safety issues. 

Estimates suggest that more than 60,00 animals are used globally to asses drug risk to cardiac safety, and so computational models such as that developed by Elisa and her colleagues could reduce this number dramatically. 

You can hear Elisa's thoughts on winning the award in the video below.