Following feedback from LASA members who thought it was the right time, in November 2022 LASA held its first in-person annual conference since 2019. The key strength of LASA is our members, therefore getting back to meeting in person was very welcome. The meeting in Birmingham, UK, was over two days; a revised arrangement to support a smooth and safe transition from the online format. An engaging scientific, trade and social programme was put together through the LASA council, section convenors, and from generous contributions from the open call to junior researchers. The meeting focused on discussing new scientific developments in Laboratory Animal Sciences, animal welfare, and importantly, how our community can continue to promote further development in the 3Rs. 

Overall feedback from the meeting has been very positive, with a good mixture of attendees and trade exhibitors, with ~70% of these attending the full meeting. The location and venue were very well-rated, which we are pleased with, as this was a new venue for LASA. Food & drinks and technical services were well rated. One of the major challenges that organisers faced last year was to balance economic risk and setting up a cost-effective meeting, with good value for money for attendees. This meant that LASA could not commit to a larger venue with more exhibitors’ space, and thus we decided to set up a desk-top-based exhibition. Such a decision was well received by trade and exhibitors, as it would mean lower fees and support for a more equalitarian approach across all trade exhibitors, including small and large businesses. In fact, this was very well received during the meeting as it was great to see attendees spread across all the different exhibition rooms. However, we do acknowledge the challenges posed by the different level locations between the lecture theatre and trade exhibition rooms and similarly, the challenges faced by finding suitable space for the poster exhibition. Indeed, there were some challenges with the layout of the rooms due to the restricted capacity and layout of floors within the venue, and it is something that LASA Council and organisers will seriously consider for future meetings.  

The support provided by trade and all the exhibitors for LASA meetings remains instrumental and thus LASA is very grateful for such consistent and unconditional support; it was great to see the good vibe between all attendees with the exhibitors and we hope that such lively interactions upon our return to in-person meeting provided a great opportunity for the build-up of further scientific and commercial collaborations. We are one community, and it is important that ALL participants feel part of this and continue engaging with old and new LASA members. One key message we take from the feedback is the need to promote further interaction with exhibitors and importantly, to allocate additional time for this during future meetings; this will be a major priority consideration for future meeting arrangements. 

Regarding the scientific programme, we are pleased to see that, overall, the non-parallel format for the lectures worked very well and was well appreciated. The keynote lectures were very well-rated, and we are incredibly pleased that both keynote speakers accepted the invitation from LASA and delivered such engaging and informative talks. It is key that LASA continues to engage with such outstanding leaders in biomedical science to continue promoting innovative laboratory animal welfare to support top-quality science. On a personal note, the keynote speakers were grateful for the warm welcome from all attendees, and this is what the LASA community is all about; building up a friendly and driven community for the good of all lab animals and personnel. It is especially important to acknowledge the engagement of younger attendees (such as PhD students, early career researchers, and animal technologists), and new LASA members; particularly those that presented a poster or gave a presentation. It is great to see enthusiasm and commitment towards the utmost animal welfare and the 3Rs as major drivers in their scientific careers. It is important that LASA continues to engage with young professionals to build up stronger and innovative approaches to animal welfare and importantly, continue supporting the development of non-animal alternatives.  

A big thanks to Kate Chandler (Head of ASRU), and Giles Paiba (Home Office Inspector), for providing an operational update, and for their great engagement and participation throughout the meeting. LASA is grateful for their support, and it is important that the regulated community continues to engage with the Home Office. We hope that the meeting provided a great atmosphere to continue building up further collaborations and discussions with the regulator.  

Our scientific program remains at the core of the LASA Annual Meeting, and we would like to express our deepest gratitude to all the speakers; the quality and innovative variety of the talks across the different sections were very well-rated by the attendees. We are incredibly grateful to the speakers for supporting our meetings and continuing to engage with the LASA community. This year’s programme was organised as a unique session, with no parallel talks, which generally was well valued by attendees. Indeed, sometimes we would prefer to have more in-depth talks on our own subject; but it is important to remember that diversity is at the core (and certainly a strength) of our multidisciplinary community; we work across a large variety of research themes, but all strive to promote the best care and welfare of multiple laboratory animal species. Future meetings are likely to continue promoting a centralised format, but parallel sessions will be promoted for specific themes and/or educational talks. Crucially, organising such a varied yet comprehensive scientific programme would not be possible without the excellent work and continued commitment of the LASA Section Convenors. They all undertake a considerable amount of voluntary duties throughout the year to support LASA, in particular, promoting scientific communication, training and professional engagement in their own sections: Care & Welfare; Large Animal Research Network; Education, Training and Ethics; Animal Science; the 3Rs, and most notably the Home Office Liaison, Training & Information and the Establishment Licence Holders’ Forums which have been extraordinarily busy during this past year, supporting our community through all the ASRU operational changes. This is an exceptionally large team of outstanding professionals who continue to support LASA unconditionally and we are incredibly grateful for all their work to support our Lab Animal community.  

Finally, a big thank you to the LASA secretariat and all the LASA Council members for their support and guidance to put this meeting together; big thanks to Stuart Lamming and Mandy Holtby for all their hard work on the organization. And big thanks to Jill Reckless (LASA President), Clare Stanford (LASA Treasurer) and Angela Kerton (former LASA Scientific Chair), for all their invaluable and unconditional guidance throughout the last year to get this meeting organised. Challenging decisions had to be taken but looking back at those lively discussions and social evenings reuniting our LASA community made it all worth it. Now the hard work starts for our very special 60th Anniversary in 2023… to be continued… 

Jordi L.Tremoleda
LASA Chair Scientific Annual Meeting