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NON-ANIMAL RESEARCH NEEDS MORE SUPPORT
Monday, 9th July
This week the Home Office publishes its annual statistics for scientific procedures on animals. If recent trends are repeated, we are likely to see yet another increase in animal use. As scientists, we believe reducing and replacing animal use is not simply a legal or ethical imperative. Other compelling drivers include the urgent need for more human-relevant research results to improve disappointing clinical success rates for new medicines, innovation as an economic stimulus, and remaining competitive with global science leaders.
A host of powerful human-biology-based cellular, genomic and computational tools are available that can often better predict people's real-world reactions to drugs and chemicals than conventional animal tests. For many of us, replacing, reducing and refining animal experiments is driven by a desire to develop better approaches to researching human illness. Research innovation can bring huge societal benefits by improving the speed, reliability and human-relevance of the tools we use to answer biomedical questions.
Britain has, in recent years, increased investment in non-animal research. But there is still much more we could do to lead the world. The EU's Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation funding provides an opportunity for Britain to demonstrate that leadership. We urge the UK government to support substantial, dedicated funding for emerging and future alternative technologies including such endeavours as mapping the "human toxome".
While there remains much vital debate within the scientific community about the efficacy of animal use, we scientists will undoubtedly be better equipped to tackle the major human health challenges of the 21st century if there is increased funding and support for sophisticated, human-relevant research.