A call to modernise medical research for the benefit of public health
Published on August 19, 2021
AN OPEN LETTER TO:
1. Prime Minister
4. Home Office
We write as scientists and professionals dedicated to accelerating medical progress. To tackle the ‘seven great healthcare challenges’ set out in the Government’s Life Sciences Vision (Cancer, Dementia, Mental Health, Obesity, Ageing, Respiratory Disease and Vaccines), we believe that medical research urgently needs to be modernised.
We were encouraged to read in recent media reports that the Government plans to launch a review which will focus on replacing the use of animals in the development of medicines.
We believe this is an extremely important step since replacing animals with human-relevant techniques is vital to modernising medical research.
However, this review must be accompanied by bold policy action, such as developing a concrete plan to phase out animal experiments and phase in a modern, high-tech, human-specific approach.
The current reliance on animals is holding back medical progress. Significant differences in our genetic makeup and in biology mean that data from animals often cannot be reliably translated to humans. These problems play a significant role in the productivity crisis that currently is affecting the pharmaceutical industry.
Greater than 92 per cent of drugs that show promise in animal tests and that proceed into human clinical trials fail to get to clinic, mostly for reasons of poor efficacy and safety that were not predicted by animal testing. While several thousand diseases affect people, only around 500 can be treated.
Evidence showing the outright failure and lack of human relevance of animal tests has been widely published in the scientific literature for countless areas of research, including HIV/AIDS vaccines, Hepatitis C vaccines, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Crohn’s diseases, stroke, motor neurone disease, cancers, brain injury, sepsis, depression, and many more.
There is a range of cutting-edge, non-animal methods that could be used to replace animals, in many areas of research and testing, to acquire results that are much more relevant to humans. These include the use of human cells or tissues, organ-on-a-chip technology, stem cell technology, and in silico (computer based) modelling approaches.
One example of such work is a project funded by Animal Free Research UK, which used human pancreatic beta cell lines. Professor Lorna Harries and Dr Nicola Jeffery at University of Exeter Medical School studied the mechanisms underlying type 2 diabetes. First, they discovered that a proportion of the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin are not dying but are changing into other types of cells. They then discovered that this transformational process can be reversed, which could soon lead the way to treatments that will cure the condition. This discovery wouldn’t have been possible in mice as the cell types and mechanistic targets involved are distinct.
We call on the Government to take the following decisive action:
First, acknowledge the need to move towards the implementation of animal-free, human-relevant models of disease and make a clear commitment to doing so.
Second, develop and publish a detailed plan, with timetables and milestones, setting out how human-focused methods will be phased in, and animal experiments phased out.
Third, since this issue has a significant impact on public health and requires attention at the highest levels of Government, appoint a dedicated minister to facilitate this transition.
If the Government is willing to take bold and decisive action to modernise medical research, Britain will stand the best possible chance of further enhancing its position as a global leader in the life sciences and improving the lives of patients and their families.
*Please note that the letter illustrates the view and opinion of the signatories but not necessarily of their associated organisations
Dr David Ansell (PhD), Lecturer in Skin Science, University of Bradford
Kathy Archibald, Chair, Safer Medicines Trust
Dr Martin Ashby, Consultant Palliative Medicine
Dr Jarrod Bailey, Director of Science, Animal Free Research UK
Professor Michael Balls, University of Nottingham
Professor Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., Professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder
Dr Adrian Biddle, Queen Mary University of London
Dr Charlotte Blattner, Senior Lecturer and Researcher, University of Berne
Dr Kit Byatt, Retired Consultant Geriatrician
Theodora Capaldo, Ed.D., Trustee, the American Fund for Alternatives to Animal Research
Sarah Carr, Campaign Manager, Naturewatch Foundation
Dr. Martin J. D. Clift, Associate Professor, In Vitro Systems for Particle/Fibre Toxicology at Swansea University Medical School
Professor Michael D. Coleman, Professor of Toxicology, Aston University
Jan Creamer, President, CEO, Animal Defenders International
Professor Matthew Dalby, Director of the lifETIME Centre for Doctoral Training in Engineered Tissues
Tamara Drake, Director of Research and Regulatory Policy, Center for Responsible Science, Center for a Humane Economy
Professor Amanda Ellison, Durham University
Dr Gabriella Errico, MD, Physician / Specialist in Paediatrics and Neonatology, OSA – Oltre La Sperimentazione Animale
Dr Lorna Ewart, Executive Vice President Science, Emulate
Dr. Luis Falcon, MD, President, GNU Solidario
Paul Furlong, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Neuroimaging, Aston University
Professor Robert Garner, Emeritus Professor of Politics, School of History, Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester
Juliet Gellatley, Founder and Director, Viva!
Dr Corina Gericke, Veterinary Surgeon, Vice President, Doctors Against Animal Experiments
Dr Emma Grange, Senior Science Advisor, Cruelty Free International
Oscar Grazioli DVM, In charge of anesthesiology at Belvedere Clinic, Journalist and writer
Viv Hallam, CEO, Kirkstall Limited
L.W. Harries, Professor of Molecular Genetics
Revd Professor Martin Henig, Wolfson College Oxford
Dr Carolina Herrera, Senior Research Fellow, Imperial College London
Dr Kathrin Herrmann PhD, Veterinary Specialist in Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law, Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Claire Howard, Executive Director, Crustacean Compassion
Rebecca Jenkins, LL.B, LL.M (Animal Law), Associate Fellow, Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
Dr Mark Jones BVSc MSc (Stir) MSc (UL) MRCVS
Dr Shireen Kassam, Consultant Haematologist and Lifestyle Medicine Physician, Plant-Based Health Professionals UK
Dr Gerry Kenna, Pharmaceutical Director, Safer Medicines Trust
Andrew Knight, Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics, & Founding Director, Centre for Animal Welfare, University of Winchester
Dr Tomasz Kostrzewski, Director, Biology, CN Bio Innovations Limited
Sophie-Madlin Langner, Veterinary Surgeon, Scientific Officer, Doctors Against Animal Experiments
The Revd Professor Andrew Linzey, DD, Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
Dr Clair Linzey, Deputy Director, Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
Dr Lindsay Marshall, Biomedical Science Adviser, Humane Society International UK
Dr Nathaniel G N Milton, Principal Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences
Dr Les Mitchell, Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, University of Fort Hare Hunterstoun Research Fellow
Dr Sam Murray, Neuroscience/Oncology Researcher
Dr Gaby Neumann, Veterinary surgeon, Scientific Officer & Press Officer, Doctors Against Animal Experiments
Dr. Federica Nin, Psychologist, O.S.A. – Oltre la Sperimentazione Animale (Beyond Animal Experimentation), Italy
Dr. Elisabeth Ormandy, Canadian Society for Humane Science
Carla Owen, CEO, Animal Free Research UK
Professor Mike Philpott, Professor of Cutaneous Biology, Queen Mary University London
Professor Geoff Pilkington, Emeritus Professor of Neuro-oncology, University of Portsmouth
Lorraine Platt, Co-Founder of Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation
Dr Pandora Pound, Research Consultant, Safer Medicines Trust
Julia Radzwill, Biologist, Scientific Officer, Doctors Against Animal Experiments
Dr Ruman Rahman, Associate Professor of Neuro-Oncology, University of Nottingham
Dr Muhammad Rahman, Postdoctoral research associate, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry
Rebecca Ram, Scientific Consultant, Safer Medicines Trust
Professor Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez FRSE, Chair of Biomedical Engineering, University of Glasgow
Dr Samantha Saunders, Senior Science Advisor, Cruelty Free International
Joan Schaffner, Associate Professor of Law, The George Washington University Law School
Dr Susan Claire Scholes, Research Associate, Newcastle University
Jeff Sebo, Clinical Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Affiliated Professor of Bioethics, Medical Ethics, and Philosophy, and Director of the Animal Studies M.A. Program, New York University
Dr Hannah Short, GP Specialist in Menopause & Premenstrual Disorders, Norwich
Professor Valerie Speirs, Chair in Molecular Oncology, University of Aberdeen
Dr Rebecca Rose Stanton, Associate Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
Martin Stephens, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate, Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Dr Katy Taylor, Director of Science & Regulatory Affairs, Cruelty Free International
Dr Jan Turner, Director, Safer Medicines Trust
Dr Richard Twine, Centre for Human/Animal Relations (CfHAS), Edge Hill University
The Revd. Canon Professor Keith Ward, FBA (Regius Professor of Divinity Emeritus at Oxford and Emeritus Student of Christ Church), Christ Church, Oxford
Dr Margaret Wexler, Head of Science, Breast Cancer UK
Helen Wheadon, Professor of Stem Cell Regulation, University of Glasgow
Dr Tamara Zietek, Science coordinator, Doctors Against Animal Experiments
This letter has been supported by the following organisations:
Animal Free Research UK
Animal Defenders International
The Animal Interfaith Alliance
Aquatic Life Institute
Breast Cancer UK
Catholic Concern for Animals
Cruelty Free International
Doctors Against Animal Experiments, Germany
FOUR PAWS UK
Humane Society International UK
Medical Research Modernization Committee
Oltre la Sperimentazione Animale (Beyond Animal Experimentation), Italy
Plant-Based Health Professionals UK
Run Free Alliance
The Shellfish Network
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