Tag Archives: Switzerland

Swiss researchers hear arguments for openness

EARA’s free event in Zurich, has highlighted the importance of the forthcoming Swiss transparency agreement and its commitment to greater public openness about research using animals.

Members of the Swiss life sciences community heard from a panel of experts from primate research, animal welfare, and science communication on this topic and the steps toward a formal agreement (STAAR) between institutions in Switzerland on openness.

Professor Michael Hottiger, (pictured) molecular biologist and President of Forschung für Leben, rounded off the event by describing the aims and commitments of Swiss Transparency Agreement on Animal Research (STAAR), due to be launched in the new year, which he co-initiated.

‘Such a transparency agreement is a commitment to rigorous and responsible research, and to want people to find more out about animal research.’

Professor Valerio Mante, group leader at the Institute of Neuroinformatics (UZH), meanwhile gave a practical example of his experience of being more proactive when discussing the primate research that he leads.

‘When I talk to people and show them the experiments, their attitudes are always more positive at the end than when they first walked in,’ he said.

This involved producing professional photos and videos including a 24-hour recording of the labs and the enclosures where the monkeys are kept, distributing information about animal research on websites and in talks, and inviting groups such as schools, students, and journalists to discuss the experiments.

Kirk Leech, EARA Executive Director, outlined the past, present, and future pressures facing the European biomedical research community, which demonstrated the need to provide better information to the public.

‘One of the main problems is that there is not a balanced narrative of the use of animals in research,’ he said.

He then went on to discuss the opportunities available to the life sciences community to improve openness, including through social media, non-technical summaries (NTS), and in particular transparency agreements.

‘NTS are a great opportunity to give clarity to why you are doing research to a non-scientific audience.’

Head of Communication at the Swiss Academy of Sciences, Marcel Falk, expanded on the need for transparency.

Marcel advised how researchers that use animals should interact with the media: ‘A lot of people rush into answering, but first be sure that you know which section of the newspaper it will appear in, and find out what kind of story the journalist has in mind.’

The event ended with a panel discussion to answer a broad array of questions including, ‘why don’t you adopt a more emotional approach to communicating about animal research?’ where the panel explained that there is a place for both rationality and emotion communication, where factual information and personal experiences are combined.

The event, at the University of Zurich (UZH), was supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN).

Free EARA event on openness in animal research in Switzerland, this November

The latest in the series of EARA science communications events, supported by the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), will take place in Zurich, Switzerland, on 6 November.

University of Zurich, Switzerland

Improving Openness in Animal Research in Switzerland is a free event (register here) and will focus on why scientists, researchers, press officers and other stakeholders should talk openly about animal research, but will not be a debate about the ethics of animal experimentation.

It will take place on the Wednesday, 6 November, (13:30 – 16:30 CEST) at the University of Zurich (UZH) and is a public event, although it will be of particular interest to those working in the life sciences sector.

Following the presentations, moderated by Dr. Michaela Thallmair, Animal Welfare Officer, of UZH, there will be a panel discussion followed by a drinks reception.


Kirk Leech, Executive Director, European Animal Research Association

Kirk is Executive Director of EARA, a communications and advocacy organisation whose mission is to uphold the interests of biomedical, and other life sciences, 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. Valerio Mante, group leader at the Institute of Neuroinformatics, University of Zurich

Valerio Mante is a group leader at the Institute of Neuroinformatics of the University of Zurich and Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zurich, Switzerland. Dr. Mante holds a master’s degree in physics and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from ETH Zurich. For his Ph.D. thesis, where he studied the computational principles of early visual processing in mammals. Subsequently, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Professor Bill Newsome at Stanford University, California. In Stanford, he studied the neural processes underlying context-dependent behaviour, and discovered a new mechanism that allows neural signals to be flexibly gated between different brain areas. Since 2013, he is back in Zurich, where his laboratory focuses on understanding the role of prefrontal cortex in normal and impaired cognition.

A Journalist (TBC)

A journalist from the mainstream media who will give advice on how researchers should engage productively with the media, the importance of engaging with the media, and how communicating with journalists/the media can be beneficial for scientists.

Prof. Michael O. Hottiger, DVM, PhD, Molecular Biologist and President of Forschung für Leben

Michael O. Hottiger is a veterinary by training and obtained his PhD in the field of molecular biology at the University of Zurich (UZH). After postdoctoral studies at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ann Arbor, he became an independent group leader at the Institute of Veterinary Biochemistry of the UZH. He has now a full professorship in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology jointly at the Vetsuisse and the Sciences Faculties of the UZH and is the head of the Department of Molecular Mechanisms of Disease. In his research, Michael O. Hottiger focusses mainly on inflammation-associated diseases. He is since 2012 a member of the Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation and is president of the association ‘Forschung für Leben’ which aims at fostering the dialog between scientist and the public. This year, he co-initiated the ‘Swiss Transparency Agreement on Animal Research’ (STAAR).

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.”

Switzerland’s 2017 animal research statistics indicate fewer animals used

The latest figures released by the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office (BLV) show a decrease in the overall use of animals in biomedical research in the Switzerland’s public and private institutions.

These statistics for 2017 are made available in compliance with Swiss law and demonstrate the continuing commitment of the Swiss biomedical sector to openness and transparency about animal research, combined with an ongoing commitment to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals for every project, commonly known as the 3Rs.

In particular, the figures show a reduction in the number of mice used and a 19% increase in the number of fish used. Within the overall biomedical sector, three categories – disease diagnosis, education and training, and environmental, including human and veterinary protection – show a significant increase in procedures carried out using animals. There was a decrease in the use of animals in the basic research and discovery, development and quality control categories. Continue reading