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Science Funded By Animal Free Research UK Presented In Parliament

Published on April 19, 2024

On 17 April, Dr Laura Bramwell – the inaugural PhD student at Animal Free Research UK’s Animal Replacement Centre of Excellence (ARC 2.0) – showcased her animal-free research to a room of MPs and Peers, illustrating the effectiveness of human-relevant techniques to policymakers.

The presentation was part of a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Relevant Science, a group chaired by Martyn Day MP, and supported by the Alliance for Human Relevant Science , of which Animal Free Research UK is a founding member.

It was fantastic to have a cross-party group of 5 parliamentarians in attendance with Baroness Sue Hayman, Baroness Natalie Bennett, Ben Bradshaw MP, Alison Thewliss MP and Martyn Day MP all committing their time to be there.

Now a postdoctoral researcher, Dr Bramwell presented her recently published research into drug repurposing for ageing and age-related diseases, as she highlighted the fact that 1 in 5 people currently alive will reach their 100th birthday. The MPs and Peers heard that these longer life expectancies will inevitably result in health and economic challenges for the UK, and that human-relevant research into the underlying common causes of age-related diseases such as dementia and diabetes is therefore urgently needed.

In her research, Dr Bramwell used entirely animal-free, human-relevant methods to study ageing: drug repurposing (when an existing drug is tested to see whether it can be used for a different purpose), in vitro (research not conducted in a living organism) and in silico (computer-based) analyses. Her findings were very interesting.

MPs and Peers heard how drug repurposing can be useful for identifying potential new treatments for age-related diseases, and how in silico analyses allowed Dr Bramwell to screen large databases of molecules easily and efficiently.

She also found that the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone had anti-ageing qualities – but fascinatingly, this anti-ageing effect only occurred in male cells. Characteristics such as donor’s sex, ethnicity and even pre- or post-menopausal status, she argued, can influence results and should therefore be taken into consideration by researchers.

Human-relevant research, Dr Bramwell argued, has the potential to waste fewer resources, get safer medicines to market quicker, thereby helping more patients sooner, and all without causing animal suffering. The ‘leaky pipeline’ of clinical trials – as Dr Bramwell put it – sees a 92% failure rate of drugs in clinical development after they have passed through animal tests. This percentage is attributed to how ineffective or toxic drugs are found to be in humans – something animal tests cannot always predict – as well as poor candidate drug screening and lack of interest from pharmaceutical companies. Clearly, this high failure rate in any other industry would not go unchallenged, yet animal testing remains the status quo.

After hearing the research, the MPs and Peers discussed how to fast-track the uptake of human-relevant, animal-free science such as this in the UK, while acknowledging that the UK could be a world-leader in this field. New Government legislation to help accelerate the transition to animal-free science, provisions for more funding for development of technologies, as well as training for researchers on these new methods were all raised as avenues of possibility. In the room, we re-stated our call for the ’Human-Specific Technologies Act’ which would include these provisions, serving as the engine to drive this sector forward.

It was inspiring to hear Animal Free Research UK-funded science being presented and discussed in Parliament – where change can truly be made. As Dr Bramwell stated, the economic and health challenges presented by the longer lives we are all expected to lead demand efficient and relevant medical research, calling for real innovation in the sector. It’s time for progress. For patients, for animals, and for our economy, we need to shift gear.

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