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Minutes of a General Meeting of the Society held on Thursday 18th September 2003 at Royal Holloway College, Egham.

Present:  the President Mr. A. P. Muckle and 21 Fellows and guests.

Apologies for absence had been received from 19 Fellows.

Minutes of the meeting held on 15th May 2003 had been circulated and were approved.

Matters arising:  none.

Correspondence:  none.

Any Other Business:  none.

Those present stood in silence in memory of Mr. Roger Blamire.

The meeting was then addressed by Dr. Philip Beesley, Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry at Royal Holloway College, who is Named Animal Care Welfare officer for the College.  His talk, entitled "Of Mice and Men", described the work of the Animal Unit at the College, which breeds and supplies animals for research and teaching, including as a source of neural tissue for in vitro studies.  Current work involves research into gene therapy for muscular dystrophy, the use of bacterial spores as a method of delivery of oral vaccines, and studies of the mechanisms of epilepsy.

Philip described the provisions of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, including the legal requirements to be met, the inspections and the management structure.  He also described in detail his own responsibilities as "piggy-in-the-middle" between the licence holder for the project and the named veterinary surgeon for the College, including meeting the very stringent requirements of the law as regards the animals' living conditions, and the record keeping.  The responsibilities of the named vet (in this case our own President, Mr. Muckle) were also described.

Philip then went on to discuss the Ethical Review Process, which seeks to reduce the use of animals in research by requiring rigorous justification for each and every use, and promoting the use of alternative methods such as phage display to replace in vivo antibody production in rabbits.  The rôle of the Ethical Review Committee was also discussed, and the problems it can introduce in some large institutions due to the time taken to achieve committee approval of all the document ation before the proposal can even be submitted to the Home Office.  However, this was not felt to be a problem at Royal Holloway, due to the introduction of a "fast track" process to cut down on bureaucratic delay.

Philip concluded by presenting some aspects of his own research work on the nervous system - synaptophysin, neuroplastin adhesion molecules in Purkinje cells, and showed some extremely impressive photomicrographs of IFA labelling of these molecules.

The evening concluded with a stimulating discussion, with opposing views on whether the 1986 safeguards were rigorous enough, versus whether they were inhibiting scientific inquiry.

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