Seventy-seven scientists and academics have today joined forces with Animal Free Research UK, Safer Medicines Trust and the Alliance for Human Relevant Science to call for a change in regulation to enable medical research without the use of animals for all diseases in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
In an open letter to regulatory bodies published in The Guardian today, experts call for a change of mindset and a clear timetable for regulatory change to enable accelerated development of medicines which are likely to be safer, more effective and cheaper, without the use of animals. Investment in human relevant science offers a golden opportunity to revitalise medical research, save money, create wealth and improve public health.
The call highlights the break from the linear process requiring animal trials before clinical trials with human relevant research approaches being prioritised in the search for a COVID-19 vaccine1, setting a powerful precedent for how medical research is carried out.
Both Moderna Therapeutics and the University of Oxford have trialled COVID-19 vaccines in humans without the usual preceding animal trials2. Given the urgency of the crisis and that both vaccines contain components known to be safe to use in people, the opportunity to fast-track trials straight into humans was approved in order to save lives3.
Carla Owen, Chief Executive, Animal Free Research UK, said, “The coronavirus pandemic has forced an appraisal of what is truly necessary to deliver safe and effective medicines as quickly as possible. We now need the vision to adopt this approach for all human disease and illness – from COVID-19 to cancer, dementia to diabetes. Something good can come from the COVID-19 emergency.”
Myriad human relevant technologies are currently available and increasingly used within basic and clinical research, such as 3D human ‘lungs-on-a-chip’ that more accurately reflect human biology and enable study of the disease in real human tissue4.
Dr Jan Turner, Director, Safer Medicines Trust said, “There has never been a more pertinent time to embrace new approach methodologies and invest in human relevant technologies. The significant advances in science and technology we have today can support the vision for a more efficient and responsive biomedical industry of the future. The Covid-19 crisis has exposed how past ways of working are not fit for purpose and with time being of the essence in this pandemic, we can indulge no longer in ineffective processes at the expense of human lives.
The open letter follows a global call for advanced animal free research methods to be prioritised to accelerate the discovery of effective vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 published in May 20205.
The open letter and full list of signatories is available at: animalfreeresearchuk.org/openletter
About Animal Free Research UK
Animal Free Research UK (formerly the Dr Hadwen Trust) is the UK’s leading medical research charity working to create a world where human diseases are cured faster without animal suffering. Since 1970 the charity has awarded £10M in grants to over 260 projects, advancing the development of human relevant research for human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and COVID-19. It is a founder member of the Alliance for Human Relevant Science.
About Safer Medicines Trust
Safer Medicines Trust is a UK based patient safety charity whose mission is to make medicines safer by facilitating a transition to human-focused drug development and testing. We exist to challenge the regulations that still require animal-based safety tests when superior methods exist. We are a founder member of the Alliance for Human Relevant Science.
About the Alliance for Human Relevant Science
The Alliance for Human Relevant Science is an inclusive collaboration of like-minded companies, organisations and individuals, working together to show how significant advances in science and technology can deliver new methods based on human biology, with the potential to improve the safety of medicines and other chemicals.
For further information:
Mimmo Di Giacomo, Director of Fundraising, Marketing & Communications
Animal Free Research UK
2 https://endpts.com/breaking-moderna-posts-a-promising-snapshot-of-human-data-for-a-leading-covid-19-vaccine (Accessed 28/05/2020); https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-clinical-trial-investigational-vaccine-covid-19-begins (Accessed 07/04/2020); https://covid19vaccinetrial.co.uk/blog-how-long-will-it-take-get-oxford-vaccine-deployment (Accessed 01/06/2020)
3 http://www.icmra.info/drupal/sites/default/files/2020-03/First%20regulatory%20COVID-19%20workshop%20-%20meeting%20report_March%202020.pdf (Accessed 28/05/2020); https://www.uni-konstanz.de/en/university/news-and-media/current-announcements/news-in-detail/how-nam-can-speed-up-covid-19-drug-discovery/ (Accessed 16/06/2020); Busquet F, Hartung T, Pallocca G, Rovida C, Leist1 M. Harnessing the power of novel animal‑free test methods for the development of COVID‑19 drugs and vaccines. Archives of Toxicology, 2020; https://doi.org/10.1007/s00204-020-02787-2
4 Alliance for Human Relevant Science. Accelerating the Growth of Human Relevant Life Sciences in the United Kingdom. A White Paper by the Alliance for Human Relevant Science, UK, 2020.