Feature: A plan to produce the best pre-clinical science

By Emily Leighton, MA'13

Is this the best way?

It’s a question Timothy Regnault, PhD, likes to ask as a researcher and academic administrator, looking for ways to challenge the status quo and make change for the better.

“Science is continually evolving, and we shouldn’t be afraid to move outside of our comfort zones with our science,” he explained.

Regnault is bringing this mindset to his new role as Assistant Dean, Pre-Clinical Research, providing strategic leadership, representation and guidance for animal-based research at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry.

“This is an exciting and unique opportunity for the School to establish and lead best practices. We want to create the best environment – the best tools, services and facilities – to be able to produce the best science,” he said.

To accomplish this, Regnault is focusing on improving the School’s experimental research environment, ensuring the right services and facilities are in place for scientists, and streamlining support.

His immediate priorities include reviewing the School’s pre-clinical research breadth and the use of research space to identify immediate needs.

“I see this as a really proactive position,” he said. “We’ll be developing infrastructure that hasn’t previously existed, looking at operations and identifying areas of support that are needed.”

“Pre-clinical research isn’t just about animal models, it includes the whole integration of computer databases, informatics, cell culture and molecular labs to get the best outcome that will lead to successful translation,” he added. 

Another important area of focus is increasing understanding and implementation of the 3Rs – replacement, reduction and refinement. These global principles, developed more than 50 years ago, provide a framework for performing humane animal research.

“As researchers, we’re given an important privilege and it comes with responsibilities,” explained Regnault. “We need to ensure repeatability and reproducibility of science to be confident in the data we’ve generated, so that it is applicable and can be moved to the next phase.”

Enhancing education and training opportunities for students at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels will also support this work. “We want students to be asking the right research questions and to apply the right methods to answer them properly,” he said.

Regnault points to the ARRIVE and PREPARE guidelines, which provide checklists and information for publishing and planning research projects involving animals, as examples of teaching units that can be integrated into the curriculum at all learner levels.

With a successful scientific career dedicated to understanding the in-utero origins of adult metabolic disease, Regnault says he was motivated to take the new decanal position to contribute more broadly to the School’s research mission.

“I see myself as a facilitator in this role,” he said. “My goal is to help put some of these pieces together, to generate support and put forward a plan that helps our research community achieve success and advances best practices in pre-clinical research.”