Category Archives: Press Releases

A look back at recent biomedical breakthroughs thanks to animal research

On the eve of Biomedical Research Awaerness Day (BRAD 18 April), EARA looks back at some of the important medical advances over the last year that have involved research using animals.

Among the breakthroughs reported, that benefit both humans and animals, are:

  • Research using mice led to many new breakthroughs, such as multiple sclerosis research, at the University of Cambridge and to fight chronic pain using synthetic Botox at University College London, UK.
  • In surgical research on sheep at Lund University, Sweden, freeze-dried valves – later rehydrated for transplantation – were used in animal heart surgery for first time.
  • A team from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), Madrid, Spain, succeeded in curing pulmonary fibrosis disease in mice using a gene therapy.
  • In Belgium, researchers at EARA members VIB, KU Leuven and UZ Leuven used mice to develop new antibacterial drugs.
  • Building on a technique developed in rats, Swiss researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Lausanne, have announced that stimulating a person’s spinal cord can restore voluntary movement in some paralysed patients (see picture).

Scientists are also developing new biomedical treatments and techniques that replace, refine or reduce (3Rs) the use of animals in research.

  • A team from the University of Oxford, UK, and EARA member Janssen Pharmaceutica, Belgiumwon the International 3Rs Prize using a computer model that predicts accurately the risk of drug-induced heart arrhythmias in humans.

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.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, said: “Without the use of animals the pace of advances in biomedical research would be dramatically slower.

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

Cancer studies see rise in use of animals in Netherlands research

Increased biomedical research into cancer has seen a rise in the number of procedures using animals in the Netherlands, the latest statistics show.

The annual figures for 2017, show an overall increase in the number of animals used (in Dutch), with 530,568 procedures being conducted: 80,694 (17.9%) more than in 2016.

In 2017, more animal tests were conducted with zebrafish (research into anti-cancer drugs and an EU-funded project into hormone-disruptors that affect the human body) and mice (various investigations, particularly cancer research).

In addition, under a new EU reporting requirement, the number of animals that were bred, but were killed or died without being part of an animal test, was 448,252 animals, (see Additional Animals note).

The annual figures, have been released by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit, NVWA) in line with the requirements of EU law and demonstrates the continuing commitment of the Netherlands’ biomedical sector to research, as well as observing the principles of the ‘3Rs’ (Replacement, Refinement, Reduction) in the use of animals.

Wilbert Frieling, of the Dutch animal reseach advocacy group SID, said: ‘The use of animals is essential for biomedical research into diseases such as cancer and Parkinson’s and for vaccines – including the ones taken to protect us during overseas trips.

“Many of the cures and treatments we use today for conditions such as diabetes and pneumonia were made possible through the use of animals. The development of treatments and vaccines for animals also requires the experimental use of dogs and cats.’

Commenting on the figures, EARA Executive Director Kirk Leech said: ‘The publication of these figures shows that biomedical researchers in the Netherlands have nothing to hide. Behind each statistic is the story of basic research, of work towards combating disease and of improvements in human or veterinary medicine.’

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Notes to editors

Additional animals
Additional animals are those animals which were killed in the research setting without ever having undergone a regulated procedure. Examples of why this may happen include:
• Animals bred for tissue samples
• Animals that were bred for research, but could not be used. Reasons include:
– They were the wrong sex for the research.
– They were involved in creating or maintaining genetically altered lines, but did not
express the required genetic alteration (i.e. were born as wild types).
– The number was over and above the numbers needed for the research study (litter sizes can be unpredictable).
• Animals used to sustain inbred colonies (this includes breeding stock and neonatal losses)
• ‘Sentinel animals’ used for health screening of other animals in the laboratory

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 15 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.

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.

Speakers announced for free EARA event in Plön, Germany

Speakers have been announced for this year’s first EARA German event on openness in animal research.

Supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience, the event (register here) is entitled, Improving Openness in Animal Research in Germany

Max Planck Institute, in Plön, Germany

The event, in Plön, will focus on why scientists, researchers, press officers and other stakeholders should talk about animal research, but it will not be a debate about the ethics of animal experimentation.

The list of speakers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, in Plön, on 21 March, 12pm-3pm CET will be:

• Kirk Leech, EARA Executive Director
• Dr. Andreas Lengeling, of EARA member the Max Planck Society
• Dr. Miriam Liedvogel, Behavioural Geneticist/group leader at MPI Plön
• Christine Pfeifle, Mouse Management, Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology.

It will then be followed by a panel discussion and then a drinks reception 3pm-4pm.

Improving openness in animal research in Germany – watch the videos

The Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) together with the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), last year kindly agreed to support an initiative by the European Animal Research Association (EARA) to raise awareness on the need for greater openness and transparency in communication about the use of animals in research among the neuroscience community in Germany.

The first of three events entitled Improving Openness in Animal Research in Germany, was held at the Max Delbrück Center, Berlin, (MDC) on Thursday, 12 July, 2018, and each of the four speaker’s presentations, plus the panel discussion afterwards was filmed and is featured below.

EARA devised the events with the aim of helping researchers and institutions that wished to be more open about the animal research they carry out. The intention was not to debate the ethics of animal research, but rather to invite a variety of speakers (researchers, policy, media) to make the argument for the need for greater openness in communication about animal research.

About the speakers
The four main speakers in Berlin were:

  • Kirk Leech, EARA Executive Director
  • Dr. Andreas Lengeling, Animal Research & Welfare Officer, at the Max Planck Society (MPS)
  • Volker Stollorz, CEO of the Science Media Center, Germany
  • Dr.Thomas Kammertöns, Institute of Immunology, Charité University Medical Centre, Berlin

EARA pinpoints potential problems for transport of animals in a no-deal Brexit

EARA has highlighted the issues that could affect the efficient transportation of animals and animal related products used for research if there is a no-deal Brexit.

The submission to the UK Parliament Science and Technology Committee inquiry on Brexit, Science and Innovation: preparations for a no-deal by the EARA Brexit Taskforce, examined the import and export to and from the UK, of purpose-bred research animals, biological samples from research animals (blood, tissues, organs, embryos), medical and pharmaceutical supplies, plus supplies of specialised animal feed and research diets.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech said: “Our main concern is that any logistical problems with transport and processing times, arising from lack of preparation for a no-deal Brexit, will have a negative effect on scientific investigation and animal welfare.”

Among the issues raised were: Continue reading

EARA is recruiting for a Communications Officer

EARA COMMUNICATIONS OFFICER

  • Contract: Permanent, full-time (35 hours a week)
  • Salary: Up to £32,000, depending on experience
  • Benefits: 25 days paid holiday per year, employer contribution to pension
  • Located: Central London
  • Reports to: EARA Communications and Media Manager
  • Applications sent to Kirk Leech kleech@eara.eu

European Animal Research Association (EARA)

EARA is a communications and advocacy organisation whose mission is to uphold the interests of biomedical research and healthcare development, in the use of animals for research. EARA provides a platform, across Europe, for the public and other external stakeholders to be informed and learn about the role of animals in scientific research and the benefits and limitations. Being a European-wide membership organisation, EARA also encourages the creation and development of national networks of stakeholders and improves the co-ordination between them. Continue reading

Basic research: ‘as necessary as human curiosity’ says brain scientist

A leading brain scientist has made a passionate argument for basic research at a packed event, hosted by EARA, in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, this week (17 December 2018).

Prof. Dr. Gilles Laurent, the Director of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research (MPI), said: “I do research to find out how the brain works. It’s part of human activity and curiosity and it’s a motivation to conduct science that I believe holds on its own.”

Reflecting on his own work with reptiles, rodents and cephalopods, Laurent compared current extent of human knowledge of the brain to an ant’s grasp of chemistry.

The Professor’s talk (pictured) was the third event in EARA’s Improving Openness in Animal Research in Germany series, supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN).


Prof Dr. Gilles Laurent, of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Frankfurt

Opening the event, EARA Executive Director Kirk Leech, explained how the tactics and actions of activists in Germany had drastically altered in the last 10 years. Continue reading

Spanish animal 2017 statistics shows drop in procedures

New figures released by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, show an overall decrease in the use of animals in biomedical research last year.

According to the official government website (in Spanish), in 2017 there were a total of 802,976 procedures involving animals, which compares to 917,986 in 2016, .

Overall this reflects a significant drop, equivalent to one-eighth of the 2016 total number, including almost halving of the number of times fish were used (from 168,746 to 85,687).

The statistics, made available annually in compliance with European law, demonstrate the continuing commitment of the Spanish biomedical sector to working responsibly with animals used for research.

Particular trends show a reduction in the number of procedures on mice, rats, pigs and, especially cephalopods⸺down from 8444 to 20. More procedures on cats (531) and dogs (1476) occurred in 2017 than in the previous year. This overall downward trend countered the way the number of procedures in Spain had previously been increasing since 2014.

Commenting on the figures, Lluis Montoliu of the National Centre for Biotechnology, Spaintweeted: ‘It must be remembered … that the use of dogs is still indispensable in the preclinical validation of innovative gene therapy treatments for diseases and that the use of non-human primates is equally essential in certain pathologies that affect us.’

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