Humane Society International calls for increased government support for researchers and institutions working to advance science without animal suffering

Humane Society International / South Korea


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SEOUL—On this World Day for Animals in Laboratories, following chilling evidence of the suffering of cats in Korean laboratories, Humane Society International and the Korean Society for Alternative to Animal Experiments wish to acknowledge the pioneering scientists and institutions working to replace animal testing, and urge government ministries to increase their funding support for innovation and medical progress without animals.

HSI’s Senior Policy Manager Borami Seo said, “Across South Korea, scientists are striving to develop and use state-of-the-art approaches for research, instead of opting for outdated animal testing methods. Yet as we’ve seen again this week, many researchers are still stuck in the past, subjecting cats, dogs, pigs and millions of other animals to harmful experiments each year, often paid for with public tax money. It’s time to change the paradigm, and for our government to move away from funding animal research and instead reward our dedicated innovators who are advancing humane science.”

KSAAE President Dr Tae Cheon Jeong said, “As an academic society, we will try our best to provide expert support for researchers who want to move away from animal testing. We highly commend current endeavors and will continue to work together in advancing non-animal technology.”

Korean scientists are rapidly developing human-relevant methods to help understand human disease and identify faster and more effective approaches than relying on animal models. Seoul-based stem cell technology company Nexel recently published its research on Wilson’s disease, incorporating gene editing technology into human cell-based models for drug screening. This is a welcome development as millions of animals are used in gene editing experiments, with millions more animals used for creating and maintaining strains of genetically modified animals. Another Korean bio start-up company, Dana Green, is focusing on establishing human organ-mimetic models using 3D cell technology, aiming to develop next-generation technology that shows higher, more human-relevant prediction rates for drug development.

Korea Institute of Toxicology’s predictive toxicology department recently introduced ToxSTAR, a platform that allows high-speed chemical screening to predict toxicity. Another company, Biosolution, developed a human cornea model that can replace animal testing for various eye conditions, and has since been accepted as an official test method by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. However, despite rigorous validation and international recognition, this method is not yet widely used in Korea due to a lack of support from the government and industry to promote the method.

Similarly, the majority of laboratories certified as Good Laboratory Practice by the Ministry of Environment still use animals even though internationally recognized alternatives are readily available. According to chemnavi.or.kr, only four of 19 registered Korean contract testing facilities are currently providing alternative test services; Biotoxtech, AB Solution, ChemOn and Korea Testing & Research Institute. Of these, only KTR’s Alternative Testing Center is named as a GLP-certified service offering non-animal, human-based tests. Ellead Skin & Bio Research is certified by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety for offering human reconstructed skin irritation tests. An industry source said that the company was not aware of any local testing facilities that provide non-animal test services until the HSI-driven amendment to Korea’s chemical law, K-REACH, was enacted. The law requires the Ministry of Environment and companies to minimize the use of vertebrate animals in the process of producing hazard information for chemicals, including prioritizing vertebrate animal alternative tests and sharing of existing chemical test data.

HSI is working with members of the National Assembly on further legal reforms that would require federal ministries that fund biology research to meaningfully fund the development of human-mimetic, non-animal models to replace animal testing in Korea as a mainstream activity.

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Media contact: Borami Seo, bseo@hsi.org

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