Almost two thirds of voters support government action to accelerate animal replacement with human-specific technologies
Published on August 15, 2023
A YouGov poll commissioned by Animal Free Research UK has revealed that 63% of voters support the Government taking steps to accelerate the replacement of animals in medical research with human-specific technologies like organ-on-a-chip and computer modelling.
The below question was put to respondents in early August:
To what extent would you support or oppose the government taking steps to help accelerate the replacement of animal experiments in medical research with human-specific technologies like organ-on-a-chip and computer modelling?
When broken down by which party the respondent voted for in the 2019 General Election, support for the government taking these steps remained at 63% for Conservative voters and rose to 69% for Labour voters and 75% for Liberal Democrat voters.
Human specific technologies used in medical research are based on human biology, rather than animal biology. These cutting-edge methods offer results that are directly applicable to humans, and humans only, meaning researchers are not hampered by the pitfalls of attempting to translate research undertaken in animals to humans. Examples range from artificial intelligence that uses data from human biology to lung-on-a-chip technology that accurately recreates the biology of the human lung rather than the animal lung. This type of medical research takes advantage of advancements in science and technology and uses it to study human diseases in order to benefit humans, all without animal suffering.
Currently, over 92% of drugs that show promise in animal tests fail to reach the clinic and benefit patients[i]. When 1 in 6 of the adult population in England are living with a major illness[ii], and with the NHS under immense pressure, this is a shockingly high failure rate. Clearly, the status quo of using animals in medical research is not working for patients and needs to be overhauled. A recent report by the Health Foundation[iii] predicted that by 2040, the portion of the adult population living with major illness will rise to 1 in 5 people, giving more urgency to our call for an acceleration in the development and use of future-focused, modern technologies to help find treatments.
Successes are already being realised by using human-specific technologies. Scientists at Animal Free Research UK’s Animal Replacement Centre of Excellence at the University of Exeter (ARC 2.0) have discovered important insights into changes that can occur in cells in people with diabetes which could help to find new treatments. This breakthrough could not have been achieved using animals due to genetic difference that complicate, rather than facilitate, our understanding of human diseases like diabetes[iv]. Furthermore, liver-on-a-chip technology from US biotech Emulate, founded by Animal Free Research Pioneer award-winner Dr Don Ingber, accurately mimics the human liver, whose job it is to process the drugs we are prescribed. Emulate’s technology has correctly identified 87% of drugs that carried a risk of liver toxicity in humans, despite those drugs having passed through animal safety tests first. This technology is therefore more reliable in pointing out which drugs are safe for humans to take, which could help to avoid situations where new drugs prescribed to patients cause side-effects, and sadly even fatalities, despite animal tests deeming them safe.
Around the world, momentum is building, with countries such as the USA, Canada, India and South Korea having already taken action to accelerate the development and use of human-specific technologies and replace animal testing in medical research. It is time that the UK, with its leading universities, world-renowned research capabilities, and human-specific research companies such as Kirkstall Ltd and CN Bio, recognised their potential and joined these countries at the forefront of innovation.
Incredible advancements in technology and science have brought us to where we are today: with more accurate and ethical alternatives to animal testing in medical research. 63% of respondents to our YouGov poll have heard this message, and we are now urging the Government to take action.
You can view the full YouGov poll results here.
You can learn more about human-specific research by listening to our podcast, The Animal Free Labcast.
Has your MP signed the pledge to support Ethical Innovation? You can check here for current signatories.
Is your MP not on the list? Send them a letter encouraging them to sign using our quick and easy tool here.
The figures from this survey are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,313 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2nd – 3rd August 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
By Darcie Wilson