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January 23, 2012

European Union Must Grasp Horizon 2020 to Lead the World in Science Innovation

Humane Society International/Europe

Brussels—Humane Society International/Europe is urging the European Union to lead the world in cutting-edge research and testing as it kicks off discussions today on how to spend its €80 billion Horizon 2020 research funding budget [1]. Horizon 2020, devised to strengthen the EU’s position in science, is being debated by the EU Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee.

Horizon 2020 combines funding from EU Framework programmes, the European Research Council and elsewhere, and aims to support science excellence and innovation. HSI Europe believes that by funding advanced research at the cutting-edge of science, Horizon 2020 will better equip EU scientists to tackle the major human and environmental health challenges we face in the twenty-first century.

Troy Seidle, director of research and toxicology for Humane Society International/Europe, said: “If Horizon 2020’s key objective of supporting science excellence is to be achieved, it is vital that substantial funding is focused on advanced, human-relevant research and testing methods. By investing in the development of emerging and future research technologies, we can harness the very latest human health and drug discovery advances that science has to offer and improve the quality of our medical research endeavours. Supporting industries today that are inventing the science techniques of tomorrow will also stimulate economic growth. In vitro and computational techniques represent science’s future and Horizon 2020 is Europe’s chance to make sure it is leading the way.”

Advanced research such as state-of-the-art cellular, computer and robotic tools are already superseding many of the limitations of traditional methods, particularly the poor productivity of traditional animal-based approaches which can delay vital medical research. The US Food and Drug Administration calculates that 92 percent of new drug candidates that appear safe and effective in animal studies fail when given to humans [2]. It is clear that in order to reverse the slow pace of progress in key areas such as cancer, asthma and degenerative neurological disorders, we need far greater investment in sophisticated tools and technologies that are more relevant to humans.

Improving the speed and relevance of chemical safety testing is also a priority concern in a number of EU policy areas such as cosmetics and REACH chemicals legislation. A paradigm shift in safety testing is already underway with the slow and costly tests of the last century being replaced by high-speed, sophisticated techniques of the twenty-first century. It is these techniques that are better equipped to unlock the answers to human illnesses that currently elude us.

Humane Society International/Europe is calling on Members of the European Parliament and EU Member States to support substantial, dedicated funding for this critically important area of human and environmental health research.

ENDS

Notes to Editor:

 1. Horizon 2020 website can be viewed here.

 2. Innovation Stagnation: Challenge and Opportunity on the Critical Path to New Medical Products, FDA 2004, page 8.

Humane Society International/Europe 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 hsieurope.org.