UNSW 3Rs Grant Scheme

The 3Rs are central to the ethical conduct of research involving animals and are defined in the Governing Principles of Australia’s animal research Code as:

Definition of 3Rs


The UNSW 3Rs Grant Scheme was established in 2019 to support science-based research projects into the replacement, reduction and refinement of the use of animals in research, and highlights UNSW's commitment to these principles.

The 2023-2024 round of the scheme is now closed and summaries of the five projects funded are listed below.

More details on the 2025 round of the scheme, including on how to apply and scheme guidelines, will be available here in the second half of 2024. 

Projects funded in 2023-2024 round

Soft robotic artificial heart capable of reproducing myocardial biomechanics ($99,305)

Chief Investigator: Dr Thanh Nho Do, UNSW Engineering

The heart presents a unique challenge to replicate by any physical devices due to intricate 3D motions and complex internal structures. This project aims to pioneer the development of the world’s first soft durable and anatomically precise soft robotic artificial heart.

This newly soft artificial heart system can be used in various purposes, including aiding in the development of intracardiac devices, providing a platform for surgical training, and facilitating the study of cardiac diseases. Particularly, this soft robotic artificial heart holds promise in replacing animal uses in preclinical and regulatory assessments.

Utilising the research group’s unique soft artificial muscles, rapid additive 3D printing and fabrication techniques, and a model mimicking healthy human myocardium, the project will provide crucial insights into hemodynamics (the study of the forces and movements involved in the circulation of blood within the body) and cardiac motions, significantly advancing our understanding heart functions and cardiovascular diseases.


Enabling a precision medicine approach to endometrial cancer treatment via patient-derived organoid models ($97,118)

Chief Investigator: Dr Dongli Liu, UNSW Medicine & Health

Endometrial cancer is the most common gynaecological cancer in Australia and its mortality rate is increasing. New treatments are urgently needed, but their testing is limited by the lack of reliable preclinical models.

Using modern 3D culture techniques, this project aims to develop patient-derived organoids (3D tissue cultures that resemble ‘mini tumours’ grown from patient tissue) that more closely represent the original tumour. Organoids maintain structural and genetic characteristics of the original tissue, making them exceptional models for testing drug sensitivity.

Endometrial cancer studies performed within living organisms commonly use mice and rats (murine animals) due to availability and short turn-over time. However, differences between murine and human cancer biology limit the application of animal models in testing anti-cancer agents.

By establishing an endometrial cancer biobank, organoid models for endometrial cancer will be developed to allow subtype-specific drug screening. In doing so, this study will replace the need for animal models and enable advances in precision medicine.


A chemically defined alternative to Matrigel ($99,369)

Chief Investigator: Scientia Associate Professor Kristopher A. Kilian, UNSW Science

The reliance on animals in biological research presents challenges for conditions specific to human biology and physiology. Growing human tissue in the lab – for example, organoids and explants (cells/tissue taken from the body for culturing) – is set to revolutionise personalised medicine with the potential to reduce or replace the use of animals.

However, almost every explant and organoid experiment continues to rely on animal-derived materials, such as Matrigel, a membrane extracted from Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm mouse sarcomas.

The research aims to develop an alternative synthetic matrix to reduce the reliance on Matrigel and other animal-derived materials for human cell culture. It builds on the team’s recent discovery of a new class of synthetic material that mimics natural materials like Matrigel. Their preliminary data suggests the new material can replace Matrigel in 3D cell and tissue culture.

The study will examine a broad range of tissue types and test them with cancer tissue explants, adult-stem-cell-derived organoids and pluripotent stem-cell-derived organoids.


A 3-dimentional bioengineered organ-cultured mammalian cornea to study pathophysiological mechanisms in a dish ($99,585)

Professor Nick Di Girolamo, UNSW Medicine & Health

The cornea protects the eye’s internal structures from traumas and exposure to ultraviolet radiation and pollutants. Blindness from corneal disease affects more than 40 million sufferers worldwide. Animals are the benchmark for preclinical testing new treatments; however, research involving animals is expensive, requires special housing, monitoring, imaging, drug use and reporting.

This study repurposes a slice of normal human cornea – a waste-product of common laser refractive surgery – to create a 3D cornea equivalent, allowing us to investigate corneal biology and injury repair, and comparing its behaviour with that of a mammalian (mouse) cornea.

If our artificial cornea behaves like a native cornea, it can be used to study how it heals and by what mechanisms. This is especially pertinent when testing new drugs for their efficacy, toxicity and best mode of delivery. Our overall goal is to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals for research on cornea and potentially other organs with similar structure such as skin, lungs and small intestine.


New methods for non-invasive individual identification and welfare monitoring of wild macropods (wallabies, wallaroos and kangaroos) ($100,000)

Associate Professor Terry Ord, UNSW Science

There’s no easy method for identifying and tracking individual animals in the wild over time. For example, research of our national symbol, the eastern grey kangaroo, has focused on population size and single-timepoint observations. This limits insights into how factors – environmental stressors (such as drought or bushfire) or management practices (such as culling) – impact individual development, behaviour, health and reproduction and makes assessing management practices difficult.

This project will refine computational tools for identifying individual wallabies, wallaroos and kangaroos (macropods) through video/photographs. Providing a non-invasive way to track their fate in the wild reduces/removes the need to capture, mark or otherwise interfere with free-ranging animals. It will reduce the adverse impacts associated with capture and increase the capacity of wildlife research and welfare monitoring.

The research will develop a protocol for visual welfare checks for wild macropods. It will introduce at least two new quantitative body-condition indexes that can be measured from video/photographs.


For enquiries, please contact the Office of the PVC (Research Infrastructure) via pvcresin@unsw.edu.au.