Category Archives: News

Agreement on transparency in animal research reached in Portugal

The public announcement of the Transparency Agreement on Animal Research in Portugal
will take place today (21 June 2018).

This initiative presented by the scientist Nuno Sousa has been proposed by the European Animal Research Association (EARA) and supported by the Portuguese Society of Sciences in Laboratory Animals (SPCAL) and is supported by 16 Portuguese institutions, from across the country, that use animals in biomedical and basic research.

The aim of the Transparency Agreement is to improve the Portuguese public’s understanding
and acceptability of animal research by promoting openness and transparency. The signatories
agreed to be more open and consistent with the public on their communication about the scientific, ethical and moral justifications for animal research.

This approach is based on the Transparency Agreement in Spain, launched in 2016, where
EARA co-operated with the Federation of Spanish Scientific Societies (COSCE) and the UK
Concordat on Openness on Animal Research.

Kirk Leech, of EARA, said: “This Transparency Agreement is a significant step forward for the
biomedical sector in Portugal. It will set high standards for openness and lead to a greater
understanding among the general public of the benefits of animal research, including the
contribution it makes to the studies of cancer and diseases of the brain.

“We also expect that most institutions in Portugal, that conduct animal research will eventually join the Agreement.”

The launch ceremony took place before the IV SPCAL Congress dedicated to the theme
“Quality and Transparency in Science involving Laboratory Animals”, in the School of Medicine
and the Life and Health Sciences Research Institute (ICVS) at University of Minho, in Braga. There followed a presentation by Prof. Doctor Nuno Sousa, neuroscientist and President of the
School of Medicine of the University of Minho; EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech and the
President of SPCAL, Prof. Doctor Ricardo Afonso.

Following the announcement there was a roundtable debate attended by the General
Director of Food and Veterinary (DGAV), Prof. Doctor Fernando Bernardo; the President of the
National Committee for the Protection of Animals used for Scientific Purposes (CPAFC), Prof.
Doctor Yolanda Vaz; the Member of the Assembly of the Republic from the Parliamentary
Group of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), Dr. Laura Magalhães; the Member of the Party for
People Animals and Nature (PAN) National Jurisdiction Council, Dr. Sara Fernandes and the
Member of the National Council of the Ecological Party “The Greens”, Dr. Mariana Silva.

This agreement builds on work in Portugal that began in 2017. A number of Portuguese research institutes met to discuss how to improve the Portuguese public’s understanding and acceptance of animal research. At this meeting were representatives from the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, Nova Medical School Lisbon, Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, the Instituto de Medicina Molecular and the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown. At the meeting EARA proposed to explore the possibility of developing a Transparency Agreement to guide efforts on openness on animal research in Portugal.

Contacts:
EARA Ambassador in Portugal, Ana Barros, abarros@eara.eu, 911142729
EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, btolliday@eara.eu 00 44 (0) 7715525535

Additional Information
List of signatories to the Transparency Agreement:

Instituição Nome Completo, Cidade
CBMR Centro de Investigação em Biomedicina, Faro
CCMAR Centro de Ciências Marinhas, Faro
FC Fundação Champalimaud, Lisboa
FCUL Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa
FFUC Faculdade de Farmácia da Universidade de Coimbra, Coimbra
FFUL Faculdade de Farmácia da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa
FMV-UL Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa
i3S Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde, Porto
ICBR Instituto de Investigação Clínica e Biomédica de Coimbra, Coimbra
ICNAS Instituto de Ciências Nucleares Aplicadas à Saúde, Coimbra
ICVS Instituto de Investigação em Ciências da Vida e Saúde, Braga
IGC Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Lisboa
IHMT Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical, Lisboa
iMM Instituto de Medicina Molecular, Lisboa
NMS|FCM NOVA Medical School|Faculdade de Ciências Médicas, Lisboa
UTAD Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Vila Real

European Animal Research Association (EARA) – The European Animal Research Association
has been established to better inform the European public and political decision makers on the
continued need for, and benefit of, the humane use of animals in biomedical research. EARA
seeks to provide support, advocacy and reliable communication on behalf of public and private
researchers at both national and European levels.

Portuguese Society of Sciences in Laboratory Animals (SPCAL) – The Portuguese Society of
Sciences in Laboratory Animals (SPCAL) is a private, non-profit association made up of people
whose activities are related to sciences in laboratory animals. SPCAL aims to standardize and
optimize the use of laboratory animals in the sense of promoting animal welfare and health, as
well as sponsoring collaborative and interdisciplinary approaches among professionals
involved in laboratory animal science. On the other hand, it is also the purpose of this Society
to implement and disseminate the ethical and behavioural principles that should accompany
the use of laboratory animals for scientific purposes. www.spcal.pt/pt

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EU Directive ‘cannot be implemented in isolation’ Brussels roundtable agrees

At a roundtable discussion on the use of animals in scientific research there is overwhelming agreement that Europe has appropriate and detailed legislation regulating the use of animals in scientific research, that adapts to and encourages scientific progress.

Conclusions also show that successful implementation of the Directive is a shared responsibility. The round table identified opportunities to join forces and work together, as the Directive 2010/63/EU cannot be successfully implemented by organisations or individuals working in isolation.

At the meeting in Brussels, representatives from the diverse sectors within the biomedical community (academia, industry, research organisations, medical charities, etc.) and policy-makers discuss the recommendations of the European Commission review report of the Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes.

The objective of the roundtable was to  inform policy discussion in EU institutions and to identify recommendations for the users’ community on this basis. Topics under discussion were: the implementation of the Directive; improving openness and transparency; ideas for further areas to be tackled.

While the Directive represented progress the meeting agreed that focus is required on ensuring it is implemented in a way that focuses on welfare impacts, avoids duplication or unnecessary processes and shares good practices, in particular on issues where the scientific community can do more to deliver on 3Rs and quality of science.

The meeting was also attended by EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, who called on scientists to play a greater role in openness.

The meeting was chaired by Professor André Parodi, Honorary President of the French National Academy of Medicine and of the French Veterinary Academy.

About the FEAM European Biomedical Policy Forum
The FEAM European Biomedical Policy Forum provides a platform for discussion on key policy issues for the biomedical community.

The Forum is an initiative from the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM). It aims to bring together representatives from academia, research charities, industry, European and national trade associations and professional bodies, regulators, public health bodies, and patient and consumers groups. If you would like further information on the FEAM European Biomedical Policy Forum or becoming a partner, please contact silvia.bottaro@feam.eu

Primate poposal by Netherlands government ‘will severely limit progress on biomedical research’.

EARA has responded to a call by the Dutch Science Minister for the Biomedical Primate Research Centre (BPRC), in the Netherlands, an EARA member, to draw up a proposal, by the beginning of next year, to reduce the number of experiments with no-human primates (NHP) by up to 40%.

Ahead of a debate, which took place in the Netherlands House of Representatives earlier this month, EARA wrote to Ingrid van Engelshoven, Minister of Education, Culture and Science and Carola Schouten, Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, urging them not to set an artificial limit on the number of NHP used in research.

The letter, written by EARA, said that any reduction was “highly likely to severely limit the progress that can be made in both fundamental research and the development of innovative medicines and treatments for life-threatening diseases and infectious disease control”.

Currently the main areas of primate study are infectious diseases, neuroscience and fertility and foetal research. Primates are an important model for the development of vaccines and treatments for HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Zika and malaria and for investigations into treatments for conditions ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to Schizophrenia. They are also used in safety testing for new medicines and vaccines.

Presently, the use of animals in research, especially NHP, is highly regulated and under EU Directive 2010/63 no animal can be used if there is any practical alternative method. The Scientific Committee on Health Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) confirmed in its 2017 updated opinion, the continued need and benefit of the use of NHP in research, and stated, “the current state of knowledge does not permit to propose a timetable for phasing-out the use of NHP in Europe”.

The letter also explains that research primates continue to be used in relatively small numbers (currently 0.05% of all research animal used in the EU) but they have made an extremely important contribution to many significant medical advances, for example the polio vaccine, life support systems for premature babies and deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s Disease.
EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “BPRC carries out essential research on diseases such as AIDS, malaria and MS and we are working together with it to ensure its message is heard and understood by the Dutch government.”

The letter went on to say: “The research community is fully committed to the 3Rs principles: replacement; reduction; and refinement and we support the minister’s call for greater sharing of data in research with laboratory animals, including the publishing negative results, which is in line with the sector’s own desire for greater transparency and openness.

“The sector actively seeks opportunities to replace animal studies with alternative methods, to design studies that enable us to reduce the number of animals needed to obtain a scientifically valid result and to refine studies to minimise pain and distress to the animals involved. This has already led to a significant reduction in the numbers of animals used, of all species, in recent years.”

Netherlands Minister Proposal
Netherlands Minister Proposal (in Dutch)

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Speakers announced for EARA/FENS communications event in Germany

Improving Openness and Animal Research in Germany – Free satellite event, Thursday, 12 July, FENS/EARA

The list of speakers for the free satellite event at the FENS Forum of Neuroscience has now been confirmed.

The event will discuss improving openness on animal research in communications with the general public, political decision makers and opinion formers in Germany. To attend please register here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/improving-openness-and-animal-research-in-germany-tickets-45287347676

  • Kirk Leech, Executive Director, European Animal Research Association
    Kirk is Executive Director of EARA, th communications and advocacy organisation whose mission is to uphold the interests of biomedical research and healthcare development across Europe. Previously Kirk worked for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry and  Understanding Animal Research, the UK’s leading advocacy group on the use of animals in medical research.
  • Dr. Andreas Lengeling, Animal Research & Welfare Officer, Max-Planck-Society
    Andreas, studied Biology at the University of Bielefeld and is the new animal research and animal welfare officer of the Max-Planck Society. He is responsible for the implementation of the society’s recent white paper on animal research. His role involves the support of 30 Max-Planck Institutes in all aspects of animal experimentation, which carry out life sciences in the society.
  • Volker Stollorz, Science Media Center, Germany
    Volker studied biology and philosophy at the University of Cologne and in 2015, became the founding CEO of the Science Media Center, a non-for profit organization that helps journalists find scientific expertise when science hits the headlines.
  • Dr.Thomas Kammertöns, Max-Delbrück-Center, Berlin
    Thomas is a staff scientist at the Institute of Immunology, Charité University Medical Centre, Berlin, and is interested in how the immune system influences the process of carcinogenesis.

Event details

Thursday, 12 July, 14.00 – 17.00
Max Delbrück Communications Center MDC
Berlin 
MAP
(A drinks reception will follow the discussion 17:00 – 18:00)

Background
There is now greater openness in the public debate over animal research in many European countries and institutions. Progress has also been made in Germany by the research community to engage with the public on the issue of animal research, for example in the creation of Tierversuche-Verstehen, and the publication of the White Paper from the Max Planck Society on its animal research.

However, there is still significant reluctance within many academic institutions, and amongst scientists, towards conducting a more open and consistent dialogue with the public. Many scientists are still afraid that speaking more openly will make them targets, while others lack the confidence to put the case for animal research to what they view as a potentially hostile media and sceptical public.

This workshop, designed for members of the biomedical sector, is to help researchers and institutions that wish to be more open about the animal research they carry out. The event will have a clear focus: why scientists, researchers, press officers and other stakeholders can and should talk about animal research.

This is not going to be a debate about the ethics of animal experimentation. This discussion is for members of institutions that are either directly, or indirectly, involved in animal research and are currently hesitant to speak out in the media or to participate in public engagement activities. We hope that this and similar regional workshops will help kick-start a cultural change within Germany on this issue.

EARA Brexit briefing published

EARA Brexit Task Force Briefing on the potential implications for animal science in the UK and EU stemming from Brexit

EARA has brought together a group of organisations under a Brexit Taskforce. The Taskforce is comprised of the following organisations – EARA, AnimalHealth Europe, Charles River Laboratories, Covance, Ellegaard Göttingen Minipigs, Envigo, Marshall BIoResources, National Office of Animal Health and Understanding Animal Research.

The Task Force has produced this briefing which addresses both the complexities and possible opportunities for animal science in Europe stemming from Exit. Read the briefing here

The aim of this initiative is to allow the wider Bio-medical sector the opportunity to raise concerns with both the 27 (through EU engagement) and UK authorities on outstanding and unresolved issues over Brexit and animal science. If you have any questions about the briefing or believe that your organisation would benefit from joining the Task Force please contact us at info@eara.eu

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Ebola vaccine in use thanks to ‘curiosity-driven’ basic research

There was no known widespread outbreaks of Ebola when the vaccine was developed 15 years ago using animals, says Kirk Leech, EARA Executive Director.

There’s a worrying new Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) — the second the country has faced since the largest-ever Ebola virus epidemic swept West Africa from 2014 to 2015.

The World Health Organization (WHO) learned about the new outbreak in early May, but suspects that, since April, a total of 44 people have been infected with Ebola including 23 deaths. Three of the deaths involved health care workers.

The experimental vaccine was created by the Public Health Agency of Canada in 2003, the vaccine was shown to be effective in monkeys. However, because of a lack of pharmaceutical company interest before the West Africa outbreak, it literally sat on a shelf until it was licensed to Merck in 2014.

The Ebola vaccine, which it is hoped can stem the new outbreak, was developed when there was no public health emergency, and no known widespread outbreak of Ebola. There had only been 1500 cases registered world-wide in the previous three decades. The research involved, and the animals used, were essentially for curiosity-driven, basic research trying to understand, and not for some immediate clinical application.

Yes, we may now have an Ebola vaccine, but as important as this is, that’s not why the research using animals began. It began with a very human, but much maligned (especially when animals are involved) intellectual pursuit to better understand what keeps humans and animals alive and healthy.

Ebola is a viral disease that is transmitted to people from wild animals. The virus is thought to exist naturally in some fruit bats and can be transmitted to humans through bodily fluids of infected animals or through the consumption of ‘bush meat.’ Once the virus is introduced to the human population it spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected people. Symptoms such as fever and bleeding from orifices can be seen after four to ten days, few people survive contact.

 

Supporting excellent biomedical science in Europe

The first FEAM European Biomedical Policy Forum annual lecture took place in Brussels, in March, dedicated to the topic Biomedical and health research: developing a vision for Europe.

The Forum is an initiative from the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM) and aims to bring together representatives from academia, research charities, industry, European and national trade associations and professional bodies, regulators, public health bodies, and patient and consumers groups. Among the topics discussed were: thematic priorities for future research; linkage with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); research missions; current gaps in support; and how to improve coordination and consolidation of research programmes across Europe.

This  is  an  important  time  for  European  health  policy  and  for  sustaining  biomedical  research  and innovation. The forthcoming EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, FP9, provides a critical opportunity for stakeholders across the biomedical and health sectors to discuss their research vision and priorities for Europe, linkage with global goals, and defining approaches to closing gaps in support and to promoting coordination of effort.

Dr Line Matthiessen of the European Commission (DG Research and Innovation) provided valuable insight into the drivers for prioritising biomedical and health research objectives in FP9. These drivers include: the challenges facing society, for example in terms of health and care costs, inequalities and environmental factors; and the need to  promote  innovative  industry  competitiveness.  There  is  also  the  opportunity  to capitalise  on  previous  achievements  in  funding  programmes  associated  with  the  development  of human capital (including in cross-sectoral collaborative initiatives) and the paramount requirement to deliver impact.

Recent proposals to increase mission-oriented approaches in FP9 are very relevant to health research: successful characteristics of a mission orientation were illustrated by the work of a consortium on rare diseases in Horizon 2020 (i.e. the International Rare Diseases Research Consortium – IRDiRC). Increased impact can be anticipated if the scientific community and other stakeholders are mobilised to address shared goals.

High-level experts from academia, industry and patient groups then responded with their perspectives on the vision for  FP9.  For example,  there  were  suggestions  for  other  health  research  missions  with potential  for  EU  added  value  to  address  unmet  medical  needs  in  the  fields  of  dementia,  infectious diseases/antimicrobial  resistance,  and  mental  health.  Among the  many  significant  issues  arising  in discussion was an emphasis on the importance of:

  • Continuing the use   of   animals   in scientific   research.   Despite   progress   in   developing alternatives,  well-regulated  animal  models  are  still  needed  to  provide  biological  insight  and help to tackle unmet medical needs.
  • Continuing commitment to basic, discovery science (investigator – driven, bottom up ideas) at a time of increasing attention to translational science: ensuring a balance between mission-oriented and fundamental research.
  • Addressing the challenges of transdisciplinary in a culture where many academics still work in silos: this may require new incentives but is essential to enable innovation and deliver more integrated approaches to health management.
  • Harnessing the combined skills of academia and industry in partnerships that will also include health services and patients. There is considerable scope to facilitate all stakeholders working together to identify research   priorities and clarify research design, increasing patient representation throughout research. Scientific and clinical communities must augment their efforts to engage with patients and the public to understand their priorities for unmet medical needs.
  • Exploring how to improve collaboration  across  the  large  part  of  health  research  that  is currently organised and funded at a national level. The proposed European Council for Health Research may help in underpinning coordination and synergy,  and act as a single point of entry for all health research. There is a broad agenda for co-ordination in addition to funding. There  will  be  new  challenges  for  maintaining  the  essential mobility of scientists and  their families  and  for  building  multilateral  partnerships  in  Europe. Education  and  training  must incorporate   the   acquisition of  new  complementary skills for researchers and health professionals,  for  example transdisciplinary and  the  capacities for interpreting and  using large data sets.
  • Developing future healthcare systems for people-centred quality care with the focus shifting to health rather than disease and entailing new understanding of multimorbidity and of early pathogenesis. Among the requirements, this transformation calls for renewed commitment to digital health and digital infrastructure, with implications for training and research.

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Another year of medical achievements thanks to animal research

A look back by EARA at some of the important discoveries in recent times

The last year has once again seen an impressive list of medical achievements globally, as scientists find better treatments for devastating diseases.

Among the breakthroughs reported are:

  • Human trials are now closer for an Ebola vaccine with a team at UW–Madison School of Veterinary aiming to produce an experimental vaccine (March 2018) that has already been proven to work safely in monkeys.
  • Researchers at University College London have announced (Dec 2017) that there is now hope for a way to stop Huntington’s disease, described as the biggest breakthrough in neurodegenerative diseases in 50 years.
  • 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded with help of fruit fly (drosophila) study. The discoveries of the group of scientists who worked on the project show how plants, animals and humans co-ordinate their biological rhythms with the Earth’s daily cycle.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “There is no doubt that we would not see the remarkable advances in biomedical research that have occurred recently, without the use of animals.

“While alternative methods to animal research, such as computer models and cell cultures are important, testing using animals remains the safest and most effective way to produce drugs and treatments for us all.”

Animal research is integral to ongoing research in areas such as spinal cord repair, stem cell treatments (Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), gene therapy (muscular dystrophy, diabetes) and molecularly targeted cancer medicines.

Historically, animal research has also led to new diagnostic tests for early treatment (cancer, heart disease); and effective treatments for serious illnesses (diabetes, leukemia, HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular disease).

The same research often helps humans and animals (treatments for arthritis, neurological disorders, organ transplants, cancer therapies) and contributes to farm animal welfare and techniques to save endangered species.

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Max Delbrück Center stands in support of important research study

A world-renowned German biomedical research institution has responded strongly to criticism from an activist group that has targeted one of its researchers.

Activist group Ärzte gegen Tierversuche (Doctors Against Animal Experiments) protested about the research of Prof. Gary Lewin and his team, at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), Berlin, describing it as ‘absurd’.

MDC has now hit back with Martin Lohse, CEO of MDC, explaining that while criticism is part of science, personally defaming researchers is ‘unacceptable’.

“We carry out our research in the interest of the sick, the elderly and children – groups that do not have a sufficient lobby. Discovering and exploring new therapeutic options for them corresponds to both our state and social mission, ” Mr Lohse added.

Prof Lewin’s study of naked mole rats (and also Süddeutsche Zeitung) seeks to help protect the heart and brain of patients after infarction and stroke by studying how these animals survive in oxygen starved conditions.

The team put mole rats in pure nitrogen, with no oxygen at all. This kills mice in about a minute. People pass out after a breath or two of pure nitrogen, and would probably die in under 10 minutes. The naked mole rats, however, survived for at least 18 minutes. They stopped breathing after a few minutes, but their hearts kept beating and as soon as they were put back in normal air they revived.

Asked in an interview by Pro-Test Deutschland about how he reacted to criticism about animal research Prof Lewiin (pictured) said: “I try not to take attacks personally. However, if criticism is factually and technically advanced, we should take it seriously and offer a dialogue.

“The public has a right to information and we try to answer questions. However, the German animal protection laws are already very good and we have to overcome significant hurdles and comply with very high standards in order to obtain approval for our planned experiments.”

Otmar D. Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association, spoke further about its work: “As the largest science organization in Germany, the Helmholtz Association makes important contributions to the solution of urgent questions from society, science and industry.”

“In our health research area, we develop innovative diagnostic and treatment procedures for complex diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s for the benefit of many. Animal experiments are a necessary and indispensable part of many questions.

Our researchers always encounter animals with the highest ethical responsibility. For example, we carefully evaluate the scientific question before each experiment and clarify whether experiments on animals are really essential.

At a joint conference of the British animal welfare organization RSPCA and the MDC in the autumn of 2017, experts from all over Europe discussed how to reduce particularly stressful animal experiments in Europe. At the MDC in Berlin, only a fraction of the animal tests in 2016 fell under the category “heavy burden” (0.8 %)

“We believe the results of animal testing will enable us all to live longer and healthier lives. At the present time, we can only answer many questions with the help of animal experiments, “says Martin Lohse. “Not everyone shares our opinion. We have to accept that. But respectful interaction with each other is essential in this discussion. “

Scientists in Europe must take more responsibility for openness, says EARA executive director

Openness and transparency surrounding the use of animals in research is ‘still an Achilles Heel’ for the biomedical sector, a roundtable hosted by the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM) last week has heard.

Speaking at the meeting, EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “The zeitgeist is openness and transparency for the biomedical sector, but this is still an Achilles Heel for many European institutions.”

The meeting in Brussels, brought together high-level representatives from bodies such as the European Brain Council, European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, European Society for Laboratory Animal Veterinarians, Federation of European Neuroscience Societies, Federation for Laboratory Animal Science Associations, and Understanding Animal Research, to discuss how to implement EU Directive 2010/63, on the use of animals in scientific research, as effectively as possible.

Kirk Leech identified a number of areas where the implementation of the Directive could be improved to help a better understanding by the general public, including the presentation of annual animal statistics and the quality of the Non-Technical Summaries, provided when seeking a licence to carry out research using animals.

He added: “Scientists play a key role in openness as the general public is more likely to listen to their opinions above those of healthcare bodies or the activists.

“Yes, the message also needs to be communicated by patient groups and charities, but the biomedical sector is in no position to ask these groups to be open when we are not yet fully open ourselves.”

The roundtable, which included Susanna Louhimies, EU Policy Co-ordinator at DG Environment, agreed that the Directive was the best way to bring about the safe and effective use of animals in scientific research and also discussed how to improve education and training for the biomedical sector, the role of national animal welfare bodies and the reproducibility of study results.