Category Archives: Press Releases

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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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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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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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.

FENS Forum to discuss openness and communications on animal research

Details have been released on the session on animal research communications that will take place at this year’s FENS Forum of Neuroscience, in Berlin, 7-11 July.

Featuring EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, the special interest event entitled Communicating Animal Research: Challenges and Opportunities, looks at how neuroscientists can counter opposition to their research work using animals from activist groups.

The biomedical research sector has often been hesitant and defensive in its response and the event will explain how proactive communications, and openness on animal research can encourage public trust.

Also on the programme of speakers at the event, will be Wolf Singer of the Ernst Strüngmann Institute for Neuroscience (an EARA member) and Cristina Marquez, of the Institute of Neuroscience, Alicante, Spain. FENS, is the voice of European neuroscience and represents close to 23,000 European neuroscientists and the Forum will be its major event this year.

Kirk Leech (right) said: “There is a growing understanding in the biomedical research sector that being more open and transparent about the use of animals in research can improve public understanding and acceptance, however the need for a collective commitment, including better information to the media and the general public is also important.

Wolf Singer (right) will talk on the Ethical Implications of Animal Experimentation in Basic Research. He looks at how the acquisition of knowledge has an ethical value in itself despite the difficulty of proving that the expected gain of knowledge will contribute directly to the alleviation of conditions that cause suffering.

In Cristina Marquez’s talk, Neuroscience Outreach for +3 to 99 year-old, she shares her personal experiences of organising outreach activities for all ages, communicating her research in social decision-making in rodents.

The event will take place on Sunday, 8 July, 12:30-13:30.

Brain Prize winner emphasises essential need for animal research into Alzheimer’s

Basic researchers into Alzheimer disease awarded major scientific prize

Today it was announced that the 2018 Brain Prize will be awarded to Bart De Strooper (VIB, KU Leuven and University College London), Michel Goedert (University of Cambridge), Christian Haass (DZNE, Ludwig-Maximilians-University) and John Hardy (UCL) for their groundbreaking research on the genetic and molecular basis of Alzheimer’s disease.

The four researchers will share the 1 million EUR prize awarded by the Lundbeck Foundation.
This year’s Brain Prize winners have made essential contributions, in basic research, to the genetic and molecular knowledge of Alzheimer’s, mapping new avenues for the diagnosis, treatment and possibly even prevention of this neurodegenerative disorder. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting approximately 30 million people worldwide.

Accepting his prize, Prof. Bart De Strooper, who is also the new Director of the UK Dementia Research Institute, and professor at UCL, as well as VIB and KU Leuven, Belgium (both EARA members) made a strong case for the need for animal research.

“Animal rights activists often talk about alternatives, but there is no in vitro model for brain function. We can’t study dementia in a dish and there is no way around testing new medication in a living organism. Yet people without any research experience keep spreading half-truths to mislead the public opinion,” he said.

Prof. De Strooper was also pleased that the Brain Prize had underscored the importance of basic neuroscience: “The Brain Prize recognises that basic science makes a real contribution, even though it cannot always be directly applied to clinical care.”

“The Prize is an important sign for young scientists to know that they can still make big discoveries, and that we urgently need them to pursue research into diseases of the ageing brain.”

Professor Anders Bjorklund, chairman of the Lundbeck Foundation Brain Prize selection committee, said, “Alzheimer´s disease is one of the most devastating diseases of our time and remarkable progress has been made during the last decades. These four outstanding European scientists have been rewarded for their fundamental discoveries unravelling molecular and genetic causes of the disease.

The award recognises that there is more to Alzheimer´s disease than amyloid, and that the field of dementia research is more than Alzheimer´s disease alone.”
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Join the Webinar on steps to transparency and openness in the U.S.

FREE WEBINAR
Tuesday, 6 February, 11am (U.S.Eastern)
Topic: How to advance public acceptance of research with animals in the U.S. through greater transparency and openness.
Joining details
The National Primate Research Centers is hosting this webinar as a precursor to more detailed discussions at the 5th International Basel Declaration Society Conference in San Francisco, February 14-15.

EARA Executive Director, Kirk Leech, will open the webinar with a brief presentation about the European approach followed by a moderated a discussion on ways the scientific community can improve public support in the U.S. for animal research.

There is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest those who conduct research with animals are failing to improve public acceptability of animal research in the United States. Recent polling also suggests that when animal research is put into context, such as highlighting the specific disease areas and potential advances being investigated using animal models, support rises substantially. Thus, the need for the scientific community to more consistently communicate the continuing need for animal research to the public is apparent.
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Belgian researchers respond to misinformation about animal testing in an open letter

In response to recent misinformation about the use of animal experiments on the French-speaking television channel RTBF (9 November) in Belgium, a group of researchers from the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), University of Liège, Université de Mons (UMons) and the University of Namur (UNAMUR) have written an open letter.

The letter underlines the need for animal testing in science and addresses the spread of factually incorrect information about animal testing in the media. The letter was also published in the Belgian newspaper Le Soir.

The researchers state in the letter: “Prohibiting animal experimentation or making it impracticable would deprive society of an indispensable tool for basic research and innovation in the life sciences, from which animals themselves benefit.”

If you are behind this message, and you want your voice to be heard, you can sign the open letter. In order to strengthen the message across national borders, Info Point Experimental Research aims to help the researchers to collect signatures. This letter with all the bundled signatures will be handed over to various Belgian media and serve as a starting point to consult with the government.