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Largest robotic surgical training centre in the world opens in Belgium

Orsi Academy, the largest robotically assisted training centre found anywhere in the world has opened its new campus in Melle, Belgium.

The EARA member company trains more than 700 surgeons each year in minimal invasive techniques developed to reduce pain, blood loss and time of recovery in humans after an operation.

Every surgeon starts training on a simulator, then using chicken and dog cadavers and lastly on live pigs that has been anesthetised.

Orsi CEO, Prof. Dr. Alexandre Mottrie said: “Robotic surgery is only at the beginning and it will evolve in the future and we want to be in the middle of this wave.”

The Academy works in close co-operation with the University of Ghent and KU Leuven and also has a structural partnership with Karolinska University Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Times opinion piece: ‘Mob rule by animal rights activists cannot be allowed to stop research’

A leader column in The Times newspaper has called on governments across the world to require airlines to carry animals used for research.

The newspaper was commenting on an article it ran on the formal complaint to the US Department of Transportation by the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), which has accused four airlines operating in the USA, of discrimination by refusing to carry animals for use in medical research when the same animals can be carried as pets, farm animals or for zoos.

In its complaint NABR said British Airways, China Southern, Qatar Airways and United Airlines must comply with federal laws and that their failure to transport research animals ‘will slow down the progress of essential and life-saving biomedical research that is necessary for drugs, treatments, cures and the prevention of disease’.

The opinion piece says: “When should a government be able to tell a privately run airline what it should and should not carry? A good answer is: when lives are at stake. On this basis passengers are barred from taking knives and guns on board civilian aircraft. There is a similar argument to be made in favour of airlines carrying animals bred for scientific research. This research saves lives.”

British Airways accused of breaking U.S. federal law by refusing to carry animals intended for research, in official complaint by biomedical sector

The U.S. National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), has accused four airlines operating in the USA, including British Airways, of discrimination by refusing to carry animals for use in medical research when the same animals can be carried as pets, farm animals or for zoos.

In a formal complaint to the Department of Transportation by NABR, the association has said British Airways, China Southern, Qatar Airways and United Airlines should comply with federal laws and that the failure to transport research animals ‘will slow down the progress of essential and life-saving biomedical research that is necessary for drugs, treatments, cures and the prevention of disease’.

Read the articles in The Times: Article Opinion

NABR, which represents 360 U.S. public and private organisations, also states in its formal complaint that the airlines’ actions violate federal laws, ‘including ones that prohibit unreasonable discrimination and that require airlines to impose reasonable conditions on transport of these animals’.

The biomedical research sector faces a crisis caused by the refusal by most major commercial airlines to carry animals intended for research purposes, not as a result of transport or safety-related concerns, but because airlines wish to avoid criticism from animal activist groups.

Commenting on the complaint, Kirk Leech, the Executive Director of the European Animal Research Association (EARA), said: “Without the ability to move research models from one country to another, or from breeder to research institution, crucial scientific research seeking new treatments could come to a halt.

“It takes a long time to breed these animals, and if their transport is stopped then researchers will have to recreate breeding colonies, requiring the unnecessary use of many more animals over successive generations.”

Further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, on +44 (0)20 3675 1245 or +44 (0)7970 132801

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Notes to editors

Most of the medicines we have come from animal research. Often science doesn’t need to use animals, but for many key questions they are crucial. They will help millions with conditions such as cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord damage and parasitic infections like malaria. There are three main reasons why animals are used in research:

  • To advance scientific understanding,
  • To develop solutions to medical problems,
  • To test medicines and vaccines in order to protect the safety of people, animals and the environment.

Animals are used when there is a need to find out what happens in the whole living body, which is far more complex than the sum of its parts. It is very difficult, and in most cases simply not yet possible, to develop non-animal methods to replace the use of living animals.

About EARA
The European Animal Research Association (EARA) is an organisation that communicates and advocates on biomedical research using animals and provides accurate, evidence-based information.  It also takes responsibility for the choice and sustainability in the global transport of animals for medical research. It has more than 60 partner organisations, including private and public research bodies, universities, regional and national biomedical associations and suppliers, across 14 European countries.

EARA’s vision is to enhance the understanding and recognition of research involving animals across Europe, allowing for a more constructive dialogue with all stakeholders and a more efficient climate for research in Europe www.eara.eu

About NABR
Founded in 1979, the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR) provides the unified voice for the U.S. scientific community on legislative and regulatory matters affecting laboratory animal research. NABR works to safeguard the future of biomedical research on behalf of its more than 350 public and private universities, medical and veterinary schools, teaching hospitals, voluntary health agencies, professional societies, pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and other animal research-related firms www.nabr.org

Survey reveals great progress made by biomedical research sector in Spain to be more open about animal research

The first report on the Spanish biomedical sector’s commitment to be more transparent about its research using animals, published today, has highlighted the great progress being made to improve openness.

Launched in 2016, the Transparency Agreement on Animal Research in Spain, (‘Acuerdo de transparencia sobre el uso de animales en experimentación científica en España’) now has more than 120 public and private research centres, universities and scientific societies as signatories. It contains four commitments for research centres in Spain to provide more information about animal research at their institutions.

1/ Speak with clarity about when, how and why animals are used in investigation.
2/Provide adequate information to the media and the general public about the conditions under which research using animals is carried out and the results obtained from them.
3/ Develop initiatives that improve knowledge and understanding by society about the use of animals in scientific research.
4/Report annually on progress and share experiences.

The report, (in Spanish) launched today at the Student Residence of the CSIC, in Madrid, assessing the development of the fourth commitment has been carried out by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), in partnership with the Spanish Society for Laboratory Animal Sciences (SECAL), a member of both the Spanish Confederation of Scientific Societies (COSCE) and EARA.

One of the most important aspects of the Agreement has been the creation of a declaration on their website by the vast majority of organisations (95%) explaining the institutional policy on the use of animals.

EARA Board member, Javier Guillén, said: “The appearance of these institutional declarations has been one of the clearest and most visible examples of the decision of the signatory organisations for transparency.”

Lluís Montoliu, a member of the COSCE commission, added: “The survey results show that great progress has been made to disseminate information on the use of animals in science. It is very pleasing to see that an increasing number of institutions are not only openly declaring their use of animals, but also prepared to explain publicly the benefits of this research for society.”

Other findings from the survey were:
It was encouraging to see that almost all the respondents said that they had experienced no significant barriers in providing information to the media and the general public on the conditions in which research is carried out using animals.
Increased recognition by the signatories (87% of respondents) of the value of raising public awareness of animal research through events, tours and presentations.
The most common method of communication (79% of respondents) is the publication of news about scientific advances which relates to animal research.
A growing number of institutions (42% of respondents) believe that the Agreement has already had an impact on society in general.
Almost two thirds of survey respondents (63% of respondents) still do not have a policy of mentioning the use of animal models in research in the institutions press releases.

In addition, several examples of transparency activities promoted by the Agreement have been collected, such as visits by students or journalists to animal research facilities and other media reporting and are included throughout the Report – half the institutions also reported that they had taken part in science festivals.

Nevertheless, the report also showed that while great progress has been made to improve communications both internally and externally this activity is still at an early stage, as not all institutions have begun to carry out transparency activities beyond the institutional declarations.

See also El Pais: Labs that experiment with animals start to lift veil of secrecy

Images from the Applied Biomedical Experimental Research (CREBA) in Lleida.

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Notes to editors

About EARA
The European Animal Research Association (EARA) is an organisation that communicates and advocates on biomedical research using animals and provides accurate, evidence-based information. It also takes responsibility for the choice and sustainability in the global transport of animals for medical research. It has more than 70 partner organisations, including private and public research bodies, universities, regional and national biomedical associations and suppliers, across 14 European countries.
EARA’s vision is to enhance the understanding and recognition of research involving animals across Europe, allowing for a more constructive dialogue with all stakeholders and a more efficient climate for research in Europe www.eara.eu

About COSCE
The Confederation of Scientific Societies of Spain is the result an initiative in begun in 2003 and brings together 82 scientific societies representing more than 40,000 members. The purpose of COSCE, are to contribute to the scientific and technological development of Spain; advocate on issues that affect science and promote the role of science and contribute to its dissemination.

Case study examples of openness

Visits of journalists to the National Biotechnology Center
After launching the COSCE agreement for transparency in animal experimentation, there were media requests from LaSextaTV and El Mundo to visit the facilities of the National Biotechnology Center (CNB-CSIC) in Madrid. With the authorisation of the head of animal welfare at the center, Ángel Naranjo, who facilitated the access of the journalists to the animal center, the researcher Lluís Montoliu showed various areas where the mice, used in research as animal models of diseases, are housed. For example, the editors and news cameras of LaSextaTV were permitted to stay as long as they needed, ask the questions they wanted and visit every area, while maintaining the criteria of security and protection of the animals housed there.
LaSextaTV
El Mundo

Visit and practices of students of the UCM and UAX in the Animation Service of CIEMAT
In the spring of 2018 several groups of students of the Complutense University of Madrid (Faculty of Biology) and Alfonso X University (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine) visited the facilities of CIEMAT and had their first contact with animal research. Jesús Martínez, Head of Animal Welfare at CIEMAT said: “In these visits – the response of students, who are closely linked to the world of scientific research for their studies – was striking, when they were shown the high standards of accommodation, welfare, supervision and control of research animals in our facilities. I think that for the students it is a very interesting and clarifying experience to dispel preconceived ideas.”

Visits and training at the Applied Biomedical Experimental Research Center (CREBA)
At the Center for Applied Biomedical Experimental Research (CREBA) in Lleida, visits are frequently made with schoolchildren, university students, and groups of professionals. In recent months students have been received from the Lestonnac school in Lleida, the Alfred Potrony de Térmens (Lleida), the agricultural school of Vallfogona de Balaguer (Lleida) and the Medical Facility of this province. They have also received a group of members of the Official College of Nursing.

In all the visits there is a presentation on the use of animals in research and training – particularly the research at CREBA. The stabling area is shown through cameras in real time. Then a visit to the surgical block is carried out, explaining the usefulness of each area and equipment. “The experience is very enriching for both parties. For students and teachers, because they enter a world that they have never had access to, and that helps them to begin to understand the information they receive from other sources, and for CREBA staff, because it gives us the opportunity to explain our work and to shift the opinions of young people”, says Dolores García Olmo, Technical Director of CREBA.

Belgian scientists hit back at ‘Nazi’ slur in one-sided media reporting

Belgian researchers have countered an uncritical feature interview with animal rights activists who repeated factual inaccuracies about animal research and likened scientists to Nazis.

In response to the pieces in De Morgen and Humo (both in Flemish) the scientists refuted the claims that animal experiments are unreliable, that computer simulations and artificial intelligence are fully-fledged alternatives, that scientists just “do what they want” and that animal experiments are of no use (an attack on basic research).
Full translation of Humo article

“Presenting researchers as Nazis is all too easy when we all reap the benefits of modern medicine,”  said an article signed by Professor Rufin Vogels (KU Leuven), Professor Wim Van Duffel (KU Leuven and Harvard Medical School) and the animal research portal Infopunt Proefdieronderzoek (IPPO).

The response is as follows:

I and a number of colleagues are disappointed that for the second month in a row De Morgen forms a platform for the dissemination of incorrect information about animal testing. This time on the basis of an interview from Humo with three animal activists. Animal welfare is of course an important topic, but it is unfortunate that these three are given the opportunity to make statements about the context in which and the reasons for animal testing in Flanders, without making any comments.

Myths about animal testing
(or if you want to use a quote, possibly “Explaining researchers as Nazis is too easy when we all reap the benefits of modern medicine.”)

In a conversation with three animal activists yesterday in De Morgen and earlier in Humo, in addition to veganism, animal experiments were inevitably also involved. Ann De Greef (GAIA), Benoit Van den Broeck (Animal Rights) and Benjamin Loison (Bite Back) are against. That can not surprise anyone and it is also their right. That they thereby get such a broad platform to send wrong information to the world, we want to rectify this.

Myth 1: Animal experiments are unreliable

Wrong! An animal is only a model, but the same applies to cells in a Petri dish. Scientists try to make the leap from model to man as small as possible.
That is why it is also important to use the right animal or the right animal-free method to investigate a certain aspect of how our body works. In genetics, for example, fruit flies are often used, while behavior and memory are often examined in mice or rats or, if not possible, in monkeys. Less complex interactions can then be studied in cell cultures derived from human tissue.

Myth 2: Computer simulations and artificial intelligence are full-fledged alternatives

Too bad, but unfortunately not true. A computer simulation is only as good as the data you put into it. We can reliably simulate biological systems that we fully understand with the computer. For example, we can already make a lot of predictions about how they react with certain tissues for chemical substances based on their structure. But if we want to discover how our brains work, how our organs develop or why someone gets cancer, then we can not find the answer in a computer.

Myth 3: Scientists “do what they want”

Not at all the case! Test animal research is very strictly regulated, and also good. Each test must be approved by an ethics committee, which also includes animal welfare experts and ethicists. If there are alternatives, then scientists are obliged to use them, and they also do so.

Myth 4: Animal experiments are of no use

That fundamental research into how the brain works has not yet resulted in a pill against Alzheimer’s disease, means for Ann De Greef that we should better stop it. But four out of five of the most groundbreaking new drugs from the past decades stem from this type of basic research, with animal tests, among other things.

These arguments have been refuted so many times, but they continue to pop up. It does not help the debate, and certainly the laboratory animals, one meter ahead.

Explaining researchers as Nazis is too easy when we all reap the benefits of modern medicine. Scientists also love animals, as well as among non-scientists, vegetarians and vegans can be found back. Yet they realize all too well that animal testing is still necessary to answer biomedical questions and so offer hope to people who are incurably ill.

Suggesting that conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease could be prevented simply by avoiding red meat and dairy products, is so short-legged that it is almost irresponsible to put it in the newspaper. In any case, it shows that the activists do not take their own advice-orphan critically for yourself.

Professor Rufin Vogels (KU Leuven), Professor Wim Van Duffel (KU Leuven and Harvard Medical School) and Infopunt Proefdieronderzoek (IPPO).

See the response in Flemish

Great Britain’s biomedical research statistics for 2017 indicate fewer animals used for second consecutive year

The latest figures released by the Home Office show a decrease in the overall use of animals in biomedical research in Great Britain’s public and private institutions.

These statistics for 2017 were presented to the UK Parliament under the terms of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and demonstrate the continuing commitment of the British biomedical sector to openness and transparency about animal research, combined with an ongoing commitment to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals for every project, commonly known as the 3Rs.

The figures show that 3,789,373 experimental procedures were conducted in Great Britain [1] in 2017, 3.7% fewer than in 2016. Over 96% of the procedures on animals involved mice, fish, rats and birds while cats, dogs and non-human primates accounted for less than 0.2% of studies.

There was a significant fall in the number of procedures on dogs (3847 procedures) and on primates (2960 procedures), the lowest number for over 40 years for both species.

Half of all procedures were the creation or breeding of genetically altered (GA) animals that were not used in further experiments – these fell by 1%. Meanwhile the number of experimental procedures fell by 7%. Experimental procedures include basic and applied research, and regulatory studies aimed at making ensuring product safety.

Commenting on the figures, EARA Executive Director Kirk Leech said: “Behind each statistic is the story of basic research, of work towards combating disease and of improvements in medicine both for humans and animals.

“More and more institutions are openly publishing their own figures on their websites. This move towards greater transparency has been bolstered by the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK, which has been signed by 120 organisations since it launched in 2014. And now we are seeing transparency agreements reached across Europe, in countries such as Spain and Portugal.”

No animals were used for testing cosmetics or their ingredients as this has been illegal in the UK since 1998.

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, Senior Group Leader at The Francis Crick Institute, said: “GA animals are extremely valuable for exploring basic mechanisms of biology, increased understanding of which can lead to better treatments or cures for diseases and for better welfare and quality of life for humans and animals. Once generated, stocks of GA animals need to be maintained by breeding.

“Despite breeding being of no harm for the animals, indeed it is a normal activity that they likely enjoy, this has to be counted as a procedure under the Act. This greatly inflates the number of GA animals that appear in the annual stats, with often very few of them being used for any additional, perhaps invasive procedure.”

The full statistics are available here, at http://eara.eu/en/animal-research/statistics/

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Notes to editors

About EARA
The European Animal Research Association (EARA) is an organisation that communicates and advocates on biomedical research using animals and provides accurate, evidence-based information. It has more than 70 partner organisations, including private and public research bodies, universities, regional and national biomedical associations and suppliers, across 14 European countries.

EARA’s vision is to enhance the understanding and recognition of research involving animals across Europe, allowing for a more constructive dialogue with all stakeholders and a more efficient climate for research in Europe.

[1] The figures are for Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) excluding Northern Ireland.

Take responsibility and speak up on animal research in Germany, scientists are urged at EARA event

The German biomedical community has been urged at an EARA event in Berlin, to communicate more to the public, talk about values and explain why animal research is important, not just use ‘facts and figures’.

A panel of experts from research, animal welfare and the science media came together to discuss the topic Improving Openness in Animal Research in Germany at the Max Delbrück Center, Berlin, (MDC) in an event supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN).

Setting the scene, EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said that while progress had been made in Germany on communication there is still a significant reluctance within many academic institutions, and amongst scientists, towards conducting a more open and consistent dialogue with the public.

The sector needed to redress the balance by talking more about animal research. ‘The public hears the voice of animal activists in one ear and then nothing from the biomedical sector in the other ear,” he said.

Dr. Andreas Lengeling, animal research & welfare officer, Max Planck Society, explained how the Society developed a ‘4th R: responsibility’ for animal research, in addition to the 3Rs (replace, refine, reduce). The Society had also produced a White Paper setting out in detail its approach to animal research.

“Explaining your own ethical reasoning is something we have found is important for scientists,” he added.

Volker Stollorz, of the German Science Media Centre, then illustrated how damaging a reluctance to talk could be and the need to realise that science cannot hide from discussing its research.

He encouraged the audience to, “talk about your values not just facts and figures and spell out what animals you use.”

Finally Dr. Thomas Kammertoens, of MDC, spoke of the responsibilities of scientists and researchers to consider communication as an important aspect of their work and not to take for granted that others understood its importance to medical research.

“The responsibilities of a publicly-funded scientist is to do good science, teach and communicate our work.”

A further two events to discuss this topic will be held in Germany this year; in Tübingen on 22 October and in Frankfurt am Main on 17 December 2018. More details will follow.

Dutch Parliament backs primate research

In response to calls to reduce the number of experiments with non-human primates (NHP) by up to 40% in the Netherlands the Dutch Parliament has now reached a compromise.

In two motions, the parliament acknowledged the importance of animal research (including NHP) for scientific and medical progress and has stated that the 40% reduction should relate to commercial research, a goal supported by the Biomedical Primate Research Center, which has been the focus of these controversial proposals.

In addition, responding to calls that NHP research should be centralised in the Netherlands, the Parliament said that this should only be done if the facilities agreed to the proposal themselves.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “It is good to see that the Dutch Parliament has recognised the value of primate research in the country and is working with the sector to adopt proposals that are workable”

Switzerland’s 2017 animal research statistics indicate fewer animals used

The latest figures released by the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office (BLV) show a decrease in the overall use of animals in biomedical research in the Switzerland’s public and private institutions.

These statistics for 2017 are made available in compliance with Swiss law and demonstrate the continuing commitment of the Swiss biomedical sector to openness and transparency about animal research, combined with an ongoing commitment to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals for every project, commonly known as the 3Rs.

In particular, the figures show a reduction in the number of mice used and a 19% increase in the number of fish used. Within the overall biomedical sector, three categories – disease diagnosis, education and training, and environmental, including human and veterinary protection – show a significant increase in procedures carried out using animals. There was a decrease in the use of animals in the basic research and discovery, development and quality control categories.

SGV (Swiss Laboratory Animal Science Association) president Birgit Ledermann said: “The use of animals is essential for biomedical research into diseases such as cancer, dementia and for vaccines. Many of the cures and treatments we use today for conditions such as diabetes and epilepsy, were made possible through the use of animals.”

Commenting on the figures, EARA Executive Director Kirk Leech said: “The publication of these figures shows that biomedical researchers in Switzerland are completely open about their numbers. Behind each statistic is the story of basic research, of work towards combating disease and of improvements in medicine both for humans and animals.”

For detailed graphs and reports go to http://eara.eu/en/animal-research/statistics/

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