Category Archives: EARA Blog

EARA Communications Handbook launched

A guide on how to develop and implement a communications strategy on the use of animals in research has been published by the European Animal Research Association (EARA).

A free hard copy of the EARA Communications Handbook (in English only, cover price €375), along with an encrypted electronic version has been distributed exclusively to EARA member organisations.

The Handbook is intended to be shared with in-house research and communications professionals and includes a step-by-step guide to developing a long-term communications strategy and other advice on actions you can take to encourage a more balanced public debate on the issue of animal research.

There is also practical communications advice on how to handle those crisis situations that may occur.

EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, said: “We encourage all EARA institutions across Europe to implement the recommendations outlined in this manual and to engage with EARA for further support or advice.”

Organisations that are not EARA members can purchase the Handbook or arrange to discuss communications further by contacting Kirk Leech.

Chancellor Merkel backs new German research centre

The Max Delbrück Center (MDC), an EARA member, welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she opened its new research building in Berlin.

The building hosts the Berlin Institute for Molecular Systems Biology (BIMSB), as a second MDC campus, committed to research excellence and openness.

It is anticipated that it will host 250 researchers and 16 labs in the near future (see video of the opening).

Setting the scene for different scientific disciplines – biotechnology, computational science, molecular biology, clinical research – BIMSB leader Professor Nikolaus Rajewsky (pictured second left) promised a ‘radical approach to collaboration’.  

Chancellor Merkel viewed a ‘mini-brain’ (brain organoid) through a microscope and started a single-cell sequencing process with a computer.

Germany statistics on 2017 animal use released

The total number of animals used in research in 2017 in Germany was 2.8 million, a similar level to 2015 and 2016, the latest figures reveal.

Germany is second only to the UK in its use of animals – in 2014, the total used was 3.3 million.

The figures, sent to the European Commission, show the vast majority of animals involved in the tests were rodents – 1.37 million mice and 255,000 rats.

Among other figures provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, 3,300 dogs and 718 cats were also used. 

German media focused (and in German) also on the rise in experiments using monkeys – up to 3,472 from 2,462 in the previous year.

Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner, was quoted as saying: “I want the number of experiments on animals to be continuously reduced. Animals are fellow creatures and they deserve our sympathy.”

Top ten UK universities for animal research announced

 A list of the ten UK universities that conduct the highest number of animal procedures has been published by Understanding Animal Research (UAR).

The statistics have been gathered from figures found on the universities’ websites as part of their ongoing commitment to transparency and openness.

The ten institutions collectively conducted over one third of all UK animal research in 2017 all have signed up to the Concordat on Openness on Animals Research.

The top three in the list are University of Oxford (236,429 procedures), University of Edinburgh (225,366) and University College London (214,570).

Wendy Jarrett, chief executive of UAR, said: “The Concordat has fostered a culture of openness at research institutions up and down the UK.

“Almost two-thirds of the university Concordat signatories provide their animal numbers openly on their websites – accounting for almost 90% of all animal research at UK universities.“

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Neuroscientists hit back at MEPs statement

The Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) has responded to the recent European Parliament’s Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals statement on the use of animals in neuroscience, which claimed that, ‘Animal testing is inherently uncertain and is a misleading indicator for human trials’.

In its own response statement FENS said: ‘The value of animal-based research for wide-reaching scientific and medical advances, including in neuroscience, cannot be overstated.’

The statement, also backed by EARA, EFPIA, GIRCOR, RSB, TVV and Wellcome, continued: ‘While there is an element of uncertainty in drug-related R&D, the use of animals in neuroscience research has undoubtedly contributed to our ever-improving understanding of the human brain and important advances in the treatment of neurological diseases.’

Nobel Prize awarded for turning the immune system against cancer

This year’s Nobel Prize winners for Physiology or Medicine used animal models to develop their novel cancer therapy.

James P. Allison, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, USA, and Tasuku Honjo, of Kyoto University, Japan, discovered in mice a way of unleashing immune cells to attack tumours by turning off the safeguards in the immune system that prevent it from attacking human tissue.

In turn, new drugs can now be developed offering hope to patients with advanced and previously untreatable cancer. Immune checkpoint therapy is already used to treat people with the most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma.

Cancer kills millions of people each year and is one of humanity’s greatest health challenges. By stimulating the inherent ability of our immune system to attack tumour cells this year’s Nobel Laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy. Continue reading

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.”

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading