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October 10, 2012

HSI Calls for Transatlantic Partnership to Revolutionise Drug, Chemical and Human Health Research and Replace Animal Testing

Humane Society International

  • After years of debate, the pharmaceutical industry and scientists alike are acknowledging the many shortcomings of traditional animal-based testing. iStock

BRUSSELS — Humane Society International is calling for the European Union and the United States to form a groundbreaking transatlantic research partnership to bolster the technology revolution taking place in pharmaceutical and chemical safety testing using cutting-edge non-animal techniques. The European Union must support substantial, dedicated funding for this critically important area through its Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for research and innovation.

HSI launched its call, and new report, “Advancing Safety Science and Health Research with Innovative, Non-Animal Tools,” during a presentation at a European Parliament workshop on Horizon 2020 hosted by MEP Mario Pirillo. Also included were presentations from Unilever, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, the University of Copenhagen, and the European arm of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing.

On average, nine out of every 10 candidate medicines that appear safe and effective in animal studies fail when given to humans. The pharmaceutical industry, regulators and scientists are increasingly recognising that traditional animal-based drug and chemical safety tests are failing to deliver the speed, accuracy and reliability required of them. In human health research, scientists are also questioning the relevance of ‘modelling’ human diseases by artificially creating symptoms in other animal species. Existing research funding should be redirected away from outdated and poorly performing animal studies and towards new human-relevant technologies.

“Investment in innovative, human-relevant tools and technologies for research and safety testing, is key to unlocking the major human health questions that animal models have failed to address,” said Troy Seidle, director of research & toxicology, HSI. “Horizon 2020 represents an historic opportunity for Europe to take the lead in this global paradigm shift. In the past two decades we have seen the birth of powerful innovations that give us the unique ability to uncover exactly how chemicals, drugs and other lifestyle factors disrupt normal processes in the human body at the cell and molecule level resulting in adverse health effects such as cancer or heart disease. By forming a transatlantic research alliance, policy makers and scientists in the EU and the United States could vastly accelerate progress and develop a dramatic new age in health research and safety testing. Humane Society International is grateful to Members of the European Parliament who are championing this effort through the Horizon 2020 political negotiations.”

The Parliament workshop will be held between First Reading votes on Horizon 2020 in the Environment and Research and Industry committees, bringing together industry, animal welfare advocates, government agencies and regulators in acknowledging the need for stakeholders in the EU and the U.S. to work together to drive forward research innovation. The European Commission and member states have already begun to invest in this research area. ''Horizon 2020 should drive the EU research towards innovation, excellence and international competitiveness and therefore boost modern and effective tools for human health and safety,” said MEP Pirillo of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

HSI is calling for:

  • Establishment of a high-level research partnership between the EU, U.S. and other countries that are actively working to map human disease and toxicity pathways, to develop efficient, human biology-based experimental and computational tools for their study;
  • A funding commitment of at least €325 million under Horizon 2020 to the above scientific work programme;
  • An increased proportion of health research funding dedicated to human biology-based in vitro, -omics, computational, and other innovative, non-animal tools and technologies. Applying these to better define human disease pathways is a basis for developing more targeted and effective medical interventions.
  • Development of health discipline-specific (e.g., cancer, immunology, etc.) research and development roadmaps to expand the strategic application of advanced human biology-based advanced tools and technologies in EU health research strategies.

ENDS

Media contact: Wendy Higgins, +44 (0) 7989 972 423, whiggins@hsi.org

Humane Society International and its partner organisations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organisations — backed by 11 million people. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands-on programmes. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — on the Web at hsi.org/becrueltyfree.

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