Category Archives: News

Drug trial breakthrough shows that Ebola is ‘no longer incurable’

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, looks at the remarkable progress in biomedical research in the search for a cure for Ebola virus which has devastated parts of central Africa in the last year.

This week, marking the first anniversary of the most recent Ebola outbreak, scientists running a clinical trial of new drugs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have announced a dramatic increase in survival rates.

For countries, such as the DRC, Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, Ebola is a serious health emergency. They are among the poorest countries in the world, only recently emerging from years of civil war and unrest that has left basic health infrastructures severely damaged or ruined. Living conditions are often restricted and unclean, water supplies are limited, medical treatment is scarce, and trust in officialdom, pretty much non-existent.

Massive underdevelopment and the attendant problem of political dysfunction have created a situation in which a virus like Ebola can flourish. Since 2014 a total of 28,616 cases of Ebola and 11,310 deaths were reported in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. This is what is driving research into finding a way to halt the spread of the disease

Now, thanks in part to research involving mice and non-human primates the sponsors of the current clinical trial in DRC have announced a real breakthrough. While an experimental vaccine that was proven to be effective in monkeys had previously been shown to shield people from catching Ebola, this new development marks a first for people who have already been infected.

Presenting evidence to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH), the trial’s co-sponsors, said that two of the four experimental treatments had cured 90 per cent of patients who were treated with them.

These therapies were pioneered by harvesting the antibodies from humanised mouse models that were exposed to proteins from the virus, which were then pharmacologically combined and studied with non-human primate models.

From now on, we will no longer say that Ebola is incurable. “These advances will help save thousands of lives,” said Prof Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the director general of the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale in the DRC, which has overseen the trial.

Finding an effective treatment


Ebola, is a viral disease transmitted to people from wild animals and is thought to exist naturally in some fruit bat populations and can be transmitted to humans through bodily fluids of infected animals or the consumption of ‘bush meat.’ Once the virus is introduced to the human population it spreads through direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected people.

The DRC declared their tenth outbreak of Ebola in 40 years in August 2018. During the first eight months of the epidemic more than 1,000 cases of Ebola were reported in the affected region. However, between April and June 2019, this number has doubled, with a further 1,000 new cases reported in the last three months.

It is now by far the country’s largest-ever Ebola outbreak. It is also the second-biggest Ebola epidemic ever recorded, behind the West Africa outbreak of 2014-2016.

Starting in November 2018, patients in four treatment centres in the east of the DRC, where the outbreak rages, were randomly chosen to receive one of four investigational therapies – either an antiviral drug (Remdesivir) or one of three drugs that use monoclonal antibodies – Zmapp, mAb114 and REGN-EB3, a drug produced by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, a US biotechnology company.

Drugs based on monoclonal antibodies are used to treat many types of cancer. The main objective of such treatments is stimulating the patient’s immune system to attack the malignant tumour cells and prevent tumour growth by blocking specific cell receptors. 

ZMapp is a cocktail of three antibodies that was first developed through research in mice and has been considered the standard of care during Ebola outbreaks. Researchers exposed mice to the Ebola virus, and the antibodies generated within the mice’s blood were then extracted.

ZMapp was tested and used during the devastating Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014, and the current goal was to see if the other drugs could surpass it. According to the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID’s) the preliminary results were significant:

  • Patients receiving the monoclonal antibody cocktail REGN-EB2 had the biggest impact on lowering death rates, down to 29 percent.
  • NIAID’s monoclonal antibody, mAb114, had a mortality rate of 34 percent.
  • Patients receiving ZMapp in the four trial centres experienced an overall mortality rate of 49 percent.
  • The results were most remarkable for patients who received treatments shortly after becoming sick, death rates dropped to 24 percent with ZMapp, 11 percent with mAb114 and just six percent with REGN-EB3, compared with 33 percent with Remdesivir.
  • Mortality rates are in excess of 75 percent for infected individuals who don’t seek any form of treatment.

Future vaccine development

Compared with other viruses, Ebola has the ability to alter its shape and increase rapidly its area of infection, making it difficult for any single antibody to block its infection. That’s why a cocktail approach was chosen, like the Regeneron product – a combination of three monoclonal antibodies generated first in mice. However, this is an extremely laborious process, taking many years to produce the antibodies.

An even better solution, which may yet be in reach, would be to develop antibodies from an Ebola survivor, garnering the DNA from the white blood cells that make antibodies. This would produce antibodies already with a successful track record against the Ebola virus.

The virus can persist in a human for a very long time, for example one survivor still carried the virus in his semen 565 days after he recovered. That’s what mAb114 is – an antibody isolated from the blood of an Ebola survivor from the 1995 outbreak in the DRC. However, this persistence also suggests that is perhaps unrealistic to expect that we could ever eradicate this disease.

Nevertheless, the WHO announcement that a new trial directly comparing REGN-EB3 to mAb114 will soon begin and that all Ebola treatment units in the outbreak zone will now only administer the two most effective monoclonal antibody drugs is a significant step towards living with, and surviving the virus.

End

New EARA brochure published

The European Animal Research Association has published a new brochure to illustrate its work as an association and as the voice of the biomedical sector on the use of animals.

The brochure looks at the activities of EARA since its inception in 2014, its strategic goals and some key facts about animal research.

It was included in all the delegate bags at the recent FELASA Congress, in Prague, Czech Republic, in June – a total of 1,800. It was also available on EARA’s exhibition stand.

EARA_Brochure_Artwork

EARA sets out its guidance on improving Non-Technical Summaries for the general public

The European Animal Research Association (EARA) has submitted a guidance document on Non-Technical Summaries (NTS) to the EU Commission on how NTS can be made more understandable for the ordinary reader.

The details were presented by Javier Guillén, (pictured below) a member of the EARA working group that produced the guidance document, at the 14th FELASA Congress, held in Prague, Czech Republic, last week.

Javier told the Congress that as part of its strategy to improve openness and transparency on the use of animals in research in Europe, EARA has been working closely with the EU to help improve the information provided to the general public.

It is understood that the Commission will produce additional guidance on NTS for Member States using some of the EARA guidance document findings.

Every research project application, that intends to use animals, is required to include a publicly available NTS which includes a simple explanation of the project’s objectives, predicted harms, benefits and number and types of animals used. It must also demonstrate compliance with the 3Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement).

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “We are very pleased to hear that the Commission has found the EARA working group’s observations useful.

“NTS are a small part of the overall need to improve openness and transparency on animal research, but they could be a valuable resource, in particular, for the media and other influencers who communicate with the public directly, in explaining issues such as animal welfare and the benefits that biomedical research can bring for society.”

Every research project application, that intends to use animals, is required to include a publicly available NTS which includes a simple explanation of the project’s objectives, predicted harms, benefits and number and types of animals used. It must also demonstrate compliance with the 3Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement).

NTS are widely seen as a positive development in improving transparency on animal research to the public. However, it is widely agreed that there are a number of problems in the compilation, accuracy, standardisation and accessibility of NTS.

In November 2017, the EU Commission published its Review of Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. The Commission reported that there had been some progress on transparency, but suggested that further improvements were needed. In particular further work is needed on the publication of statistical information on animal use and on non-technical project summaries (NTS).

EARA identified clear opportunities to improve NTS for the general public and set up its working group in 2018. The working group brought together representatives from the user community, with a range of experts from backgrounds in animal welfare, communications and private and public biomedical research, including membership of institutional ethics committees and welfare organisations.

As an example of its guidance, the EARA working group suggested that, in the Adverse Effects section of the NTS, rather than saying what will be done to animals (e.g. ‘rats will be injected’), researchers should try to describe in everyday language what the animal’s experience is likely to be.

For example, ‘Rats will likely experience some discomfort, mild pain and bruising to the skin from being injected on four occasions’.

The members were Javier Guillén, (AAALAC International, chair), Michael Addelman (University of Manchester), Peter Janssen (FENS_CARE), Serban Morosan (GIRCOR) , Barney Reed (RSPCA) , Kirsty Reid (EFPIA) , Bob Tolliday (EARA) and Hanna-Marja Voipio (FELASA).


** The guidance is based on the current proposed template by the European Commission. Since a new version of this template is expected before the end of 2019, the Working Group may consider a future update of the guidance to make it fit better with the new template, although the opinion of the Working Group is that the main concepts of the presented guidance will be still valid.

For further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, btolliday@eara.eu on +44 (0)20 3675 1245 or +44 (0)7970 132801

How the European Animal Research Association was created

This article is reprinted from the Understanding Animal Research website marking the tenth anniversary of UAR.

Understanding Animal Research has a small staff and a clear remit to help the UK public to understand why and how animals are used in research while supporting its member organisations and maintaining an operating environment that allows properly regulated animal research to continue in this country. So when in 2012 UAR started to receive requests for support from biomedical research organisations in Italy, Germany and elsewhere in mainland Europe, it reluctantly had to say that we did not have the resources to give assistance.

The decision by several ferry companies to stop transporting research animals across the English Channel, also in 2012, compounded the feeling that activists across Europe were gaining the upper hand and beginning to exert pressure on the supply chain for our sector.

A meeting convened by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) in Brussels, in early 2013, saw UAR Chief Executive, Wendy Jarrett, and Kirk Leech, then of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, volunteer to co-ordinate efforts to create a project aimed at countering this rise in activism, improve public understanding of animal research and open up new transport routes for animals between the UK and the rest of Europe.

UAR worked closely with ABPI and colleagues from GIRCOR, an association communicating on animal research in France, to hold a meeting at the Federation for Laboratory Animal Science Associations (FELASA) congress in the summer of 2013. This led to the agreement of several companies and institutions, in particular Covance, Ellegaard Gottingen Minipigs, Marshall Bioresources, Harlan, Farmindustria and AstraZeneca, to provide support and funding for a three-year project.

The European Animal Research Association (EARA) was created and UAR hired Kirk Leech as EARA’s Interim Director and invited key individuals from the supporting organisations to form a Board of Management.

UARs took legal advice on drafting the Memorandum of Understanding and Articles of Association for the new organisation and incorporated EARA at Companies House on 5 March, 2014 and Kirk Leech was appointed Executive Director of EARA in April, 2014.

From that point on, EARA was a separate entity from UAR, although the two organisations share offices in London and other overheads in order to get the best value for all our member organisations.

Further staff joined EARA from 2014 onwards and it currently has a staff of three. In addition to Kirk, Bob Tolliday is Communications and Media Manager and Ana Barros is Communications Officer.

Early successes for EARA were the formation of an animal research advocacy organisation in Italy – Research4Life; an invitation to join the Presidential Commission on Animal Research in basic science at the Max Planck Society and the creation of the EARA social media brand on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and subsequently Twitter feeds for Belgium, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, the Netheralands and Spain.

EARA has played a pivotal role in opening up research institutions in the Netherlands and Spain for visits by TV film crews. It also successfully mobilised the European scientific community to oppose the 2015 European Citizens’ Initiative, hosting and co-ordinating the joint statement regarding Directive EU/2010/63 on the protection of animals used in research, with support from over 300 institutions.

Following the success of the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK, EARA has worked with organisations in Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Switzerland to help develop similar transparency agreements in those countries and continues to support further moves towards transparency across the EU and more widely.

In 2017 EARA’s members decided that the three-year project had been so successful that the Association should continue as a permanent organisation.

More recent work has included the formation of the EARA Brexit Taskforce to represent the European biomedical sector in negotiations with UK and EU officials on the future of laboratory animal transport following the UK’s exit from the EU. EARA has also partnered with high-level stakeholders, and collaborated with US-based advocacy groups to find a long-term solution to the effective boycott on US transport of laboratory animals, as this also has an impact on EU biomedical research.

It has also collaborated with the European Commission on a number of transparency initiates including improving the language used in Non-Technical Project Summaries and also an EU-wide study of the openness of websites of institutions where animal research takes place or is supported.

Looking ahead EARA will continue to help establish new national networks, particularly in Germany, and put in place more national transparency agreements across Europe. It will use the EARA network to aid the sector’s attempts to ensure the full and correct implementation of EU Directive 2010/63 and monitor the impact of Brexit on EARA and its stakeholders.

To find out more about EARA or to subscribe to its News Digest, please contact Bob Tolliday, EARA Communications and Media Manager btolliday@eara.eu

EARA website study shows much more progress is needed to improve openness on animal research in Portugal

A study by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), of websites of biomedical research bodies in Portugal, assessing how they discuss research using animals, has found that the sector is still some way from an acceptable level of openness and transparency in animal research.

EARA assessed a total of 50 institutional websites in Portugal, during 2018, both public and private bodies, such as universities and pharmaceutical companies, and a rating system was developed to analyse the data. The main findings were that:

  • Just over a quarter (26%) of the institutions conducting animal research carry a recognisable statement on their websites explaining the use of animals in research/animal welfare.
  • However, around two thirds of websites assessed (62%) meet the criterion for providing ‘more information’, for instance by including the kind of animals used.
  • Just one in five (20%) of the websites can be considered to have prominent mentions of animal research – such as recognisable statements within three clicks of the homepage.

Currently, efforts to improve openness in Portugal are co-ordinated through a transparency agreement, which was launched last year by the Portuguese Society of Sciences in Laboratory Animals (SPCAL), in collaboration with EARA, and is signed by 16 institutions.

A total of 1,219 institutional websites within the EU[1] were assessed and the findings from the EARA Study of EU-based websites 2018 have now been presented to the EU Commission, which is currently examining the findings.

In comparison to Portugal, the percentage of institutions that displayed a statement on the use of animals in research in other countries was – France 32%, Germany 34%, Italy 39%, Spain 84% and UK 95%.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “The biomedical sector in Portugal has made progress through its transparency agreement, but much more can be done. Institutions should  make greater use of all the opportunities to be more accessible and to be more transparent with the public.

“Our view is that the websites of the institutions that we assessed will play an increasingly important role in informing members of the public, media, decision-makers and regulators about the use of animals in research, their welfare and the benefits of biomedical science for humans and animals”

The website study has helped EARA identify areas of good practice on communications and openness in the life sciences sector and areas where improvement is needed. It will also help EARA provide guidance on best practice to all its member organisations and the sector as a whole across Europe and build on the advice already given to EARA members in the EARA Communications Handbook.

The study is therefore a tool that can then be used to encourage greater transparency in line with the recommendations made in Section 3 of the Review of Directive 2010/63/EU in November 2017.

Using the documentation and techniques developed in the course of this study, EARA intends in future years to revisit the websites involved and chart the improvement (or otherwise) of the institutional openness of the sector as a whole.

For further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, btolliday@eara.eu on +44 (0)20 3675 1245 or +44 (0)7970 132801

END


[1] A further 100 websites from non-EU countries were assessed.

EARA website study shows much more progress is needed to improve openness on animal research in Italy

A study by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), of websites of biomedical research bodies in Italy, assessing how they discuss research using animals, has found that the sector is still some way from an acceptable level of openness and transparency in animal research.

EARA assessed a total of 64 institutional websites in Italy during 2018, both public and private bodies, such as universities and pharmaceutical companies, and a rating system was developed to analyse the data. The main findings were that:

  • Around two in five (39%) of the institutions conducting animal research carry a recognisable statement on their websites explaining the use of animals in research/animal welfare.
  • However, more than two thirds of websites assessed (66%) meet the criterion for providing ‘more information’, for instance by including the kind of animals used.
  • Fewer than one in five (17%) of the websites can be considered to have prominent mentions of animal research – such as recognisable statements within three clicks of the homepage.

A total of 1,219 institutional websites within the EU[1] were assessed and the findings from the EARA Study of EU-based websites 2018 have now been presented to the EU Commission, which is currently examining the findings.

In comparison to Italy, the percentage of institutions that displayed a statement on the use of animals in research in other countries was – France 32%, Germany 34%, Spain 84% and UK 95%.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “We believe the sector in Italy needs to make greater use of all opportunities to be more accessible and to be more transparent with the public. Whilst progress has been made by many institutions, much more could be done.

“Our view is that the websites of the institutions that we assessed will play an increasingly important role in informing members of the public, media, decision-makers and regulators about the use of animals in research, their welfare and the benefits of biomedical science for humans and animals”

The website study has helped EARA identify areas of good practice on communications and openness in the life sciences sector and areas where improvement is needed. It will also help EARA provide guidance on best practice to all its member organisations and the sector as a whole across Europe and build on the advice already given to EARA members in the EARA Communications Handbook.

The study is therefore a tool that can then be used to encourage greater transparency in line with the recommendations made in Section 3 of the Review of Directive 2010/63/EU in November 2017.

Using the documentation and techniques developed in the course of this study, EARA intends in future years to revisit the websites involved and chart the improvement (or otherwise) of the institutional openness of the sector as a whole.

For further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, btolliday@eara.eu on +44 (0)20 3675 1245 or +44 (0)7970 132801

END


[1] A further 100 websites from non-EU countries were assessed.

EARA website study shows much more progress is needed to improve openness on animal research in Germany

A study by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), of websites of biomedical research bodies in Germany, assessing how they discuss research using animals, has found that the sector is still some way from an acceptable level of openness and transparency in animal research.

EARA assessed a total of 151 institutional websites in Germany during 2018, both public and private bodies, such as universities and pharmaceutical companies, and a rating system was developed to analyse the data. The main findings were that:

  • Just a third (34%) of the institutions conducting animal research carry a recognisable statement on their websites explaining the use of animals in research/animal welfare.
  • Just over half the websites assessed (55%) meet the criterion for providing ‘more information’, for instance by including the kind of animals used.
  • Well under a third (28%) of the websites can be considered to have prominent mentions of animal research – such as recognisable statements within three clicks of the homepage.

A total of 1,219 institutional websiteswithin the EU[1] were assessed and the findings from the EARA Study of EU-based websites 2018have now been presented to the EU Commission, which is currently examining the findings.

In comparison to Germany, the percentage of institutions that displayed a statement on the use of animals in research in other countries was – France 32%, Italy 39%, Spain 84% and UK 95%.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “We believe the sector in Germany needs to make greater use of all opportunities to be more accessible and to be more transparent with the public. Whilst progress has been made by many institutions, much more could be done.

“Our view is that the websites of the institutions that we assessed will play an increasingly important role in informing members of the public, media, decision-makers and regulators about the use of animals in research, their welfare and the benefits of biomedical science for humans and animals”

The website study has helped EARA identify areas of good practice on communications and openness in the life sciences sector and areas where improvement is needed. It will also help EARA provide guidance on best practice to all its member organisations and the sector as a whole across Europe and build on the advice already given to EARA members in the EARA Communications Handbook.

The study is therefore a tool that can then be used to encourage greater transparency in line with the recommendations made in Section 3 of the Review of Directive 2010/63/EU in November 2017.

Using the documentation and techniques developed in the course of this study, EARA intends in future years to revisit the websites involved and chart the improvement (or otherwise) of the institutional openness of the sector as a whole.

For further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, btolliday@eara.eu on +44 (0)20 3675 1245 or +44 (0)7970 132801

END


[1] A further 100 websites from non-EU countries were assessed.

EARA website study shows the Belgian biomedical sector must continue to improve openness on animal research

A study by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), of websites of biomedical research bodies in Belgium, assessing how they discuss research using animals, has found that the sector needs to continue to make progress towards an acceptable level of openness and transparency in animal research.

EARA assessed a total of 41 institutional websites in Belgium, during 2018, both public and private bodies, such as universities and pharmaceutical companies, and a rating system was developed to analyse the data. The main findings were that:

  • Just over half (56%) of the institutions conducting animal research carry a recognisable statement on their websites explaining the use of animals in research/animal welfare.
  • Just over half of the websites assessed (56%) meet the criterion for providing ‘more information’, for instance by including the kind of animals used.
  • Just under a two thirds (61%) of the websites can be considered to have prominent mentions of animal research – such as recognisable statements within three clicks of the homepage.

A total of 1,219 institutional websites within the EU[1] were assessed and the findings from the EARA Study of EU-based websites 2018 have now been presented to the EU Commission, which is currently examining the findings.

In comparison to Belgium, the percentage of institutions that displayed a statement on the use of animals in research in other countries was – France 32%, Germany 34%, Italy 39%, Spain 84%, and UK 95%.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “We believe the sector in Belgium needs to make greater use of all opportunities to be more accessible and to be more transparent with the public. Whilst progress has been made by many institutions, much more could be done.

“Our view is that the websites of the institutions that we assessed will play an increasingly important role in informing members of the public, media, decision-makers and regulators about the use of animals in research, their welfare and the benefits of biomedical science for humans and animals”

The website study has helped EARA identify areas of good practice on communications and openness in the life sciences sector and areas where improvement is needed. It will also help EARA provide guidance on best practice to all its member organisations and the sector as a whole across Europe and build on the advice already given to EARA members in the EARA Communications Handbook.

The study is therefore a tool that can then be used to encourage greater transparency in line with the recommendations made in Section 3 of the Review of Directive 2010/63/EU in November 2017.

Using the documentation and techniques developed in the course of this study, EARA intends in future years to revisit the websites involved and chart the improvement (or otherwise) of the institutional openness of the sector as a whole.

For further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, btolliday@eara.eu on +44 (0)20 3675 1245 or +44 (0)7970 132801

END


[1] A further 100 websites from non-EU countries were assessed.

EARA website study shows much more progress is needed to improve openness on animal research in France

A study by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), of websites of biomedical research bodies in France, assessing how they discuss research using animals, has found that the sector is still some way from an acceptable level of openness and transparency in animal research.

EARA assessed a total of 191 institutional websites in France during 2018, both public and private bodies, such as universities and pharmaceutical companies, and a rating system was developed to analyse the data. The main findings were that:

  • Just under a third (32%) of the institutions conducting animal research carry a recognisable statement on their websites explaining the use of animals in research/animal welfare.
  • However, more than two thirds of websites assessed (68%) meet the criterion for providing ‘more information’, for instance by including the kind of animals used.
  • Just over a third (37%) of the websites can be considered to have prominent mentions of animal research – such as recognisable statements within three clicks of the homepage.

A total of 1,219 institutional websites within the EU[1] were assessed and the findings from the EARA Study of EU-based websites 2018 have now been presented to the EU Commission, which is currently examining the findings.

In comparison to France, the percentage of institutions that displayed a statement on the use of animals in research in other countries was – Germany 34%, Italy 39%, Spain 84% and UK 95%.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “We believe the sector in France needs to make greater use of all opportunities to be more accessible and to be more transparent with the public. While progress has been made by many institutions, much more could be done.

“Our view is that the websites of the institutions that we assessed will play an increasingly important role in informing members of the public, media, decision-makers and regulators about the use of animals in research, their welfare and the benefits of biomedical science for humans and animals”

The study has helped EARA identify areas of good practice on communications and openness in the life sciences sector and areas where improvement is needed. It will also help EARA provide guidance on best practice to all its member organisations and the sector as a whole across Europe and build on the advice already given to EARA members in the EARA Communications Handbook.

The website study is therefore a tool that can then be used to encourage greater transparency in line with the recommendations made in Section 3 of the Review of Directive 2010/63/EU in November 2017.

Using the documentation and techniques developed in the course of this study, EARA intends in future years to revisit the websites involved and chart the improvement (or otherwise) of the institutional openness of the sector as a whole.

For further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, btolliday@eara.eu on +44 (0)20 3675 1245 or +44 (0)7970 132801

END


[1] A further 100 websites from non-EU countries were assessed.

EARA website study shows the Spanish biomedical sector must continue to improve openness on animal research

A study by the European Animal Research Association (EARA), of websites of biomedical research bodies in Spain, assessing how they discuss research using animals, has found that the sector needs to continue to make progress towards an acceptable level of openness and transparency in animal research.

EARA assessed a total of 189 institutional websites in Spain, during 2018, both public and private bodies, such as universities and pharmaceutical companies, and a rating system was developed to analyse the data. The main findings were that:

  • A large majority of institutions (84%) conducting animal research carry a recognisable statement on their websites explaining the use of animals in research/animal welfare.
  • However, just under two in five of the websites assessed (38%) meet the criterion for providing ‘more information’, for instance by including the kind of animals used.
  • Fewer than one in five (18%) of the websites can be considered to have prominent mentions of animal research – such as recognisable statements within three clicks of the homepage.

Currently, efforts to improve openness in Spain are co-ordinated through the Transparency Agreement on Animal Research in Spain (‘Acuerdo de transparencia sobre el uso de animales en experimentación científica en España’) which was launched by the Spanish Confederation of Scientific Societies (COSCE), with the collaboration of EARA, and has been adhered to by more than 130 institutions.

A total of 1,219 institutional websites within the EU[1] were assessed and the findings from the EARA Study of EU-based websites 2018 have now been presented to the EU Commission, which is currently examining the findings.

In comparison to Spain, the percentage of institutions that displayed a statement on the use of animals in research in other countries was – France 32%, Germany 34%, Italy 39% and UK 95%.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “The biomedical sector in Spain has made good progress through the transparency agreement, but much more can be done. Institutions should make greater use of all the opportunities to be more accessible and to be more transparent with the public.

“Our view is that the websites of the institutions that we assessed will play an increasingly important role in informing members of the public, media, decision-makers and regulators about the use of animals in research, their welfare and the benefits of biomedical science for humans and animals”

The website study has helped EARA identify areas of good practice on communications and openness in the life sciences sector and areas where improvement is needed. It will also help EARA provide guidance on best practice to all its member organisations and the sector as a whole across Europe and build on the advice already given to EARA members in the EARA Communications Handbook.

The study is therefore a tool that can then be used to encourage greater transparency in line with the recommendations made in Section 3 of the Review of Directive 2010/63/EU in November 2017.

Using the documentation and techniques developed in the course of this study, EARA intends in future years to revisit the websites involved and chart the improvement (or otherwise) of the institutional openness of the sector as a whole.


[1] A further 100 websites from non-EU countries were assessed.