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UK plans to reduce use of animals in research

Looks to new technologies to screen earlier for drug failures

UK flag The UK Government has announced plans to reduce the use of animals in scientific research.

Developed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Home Office and the Department of Health, the new strategy aims to encourage the development of new approaches to medical research, claiming that "success seen in animal studies has not always translated in the clinic".

These costly late-stage failures have been down to both a lack of efficacy and safety concerns, with the Government's paper stating that methods are needed to screen failures as early as possible.

The role of technological developments is key, notes the paper, which states that improved computer power and wider scientific innovation "provide the perfect environment and catalyst for scientific change and progress which will help to reduce the use of animals in research".

This plan builds on existing work by the UK's National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), which has invested £35m to support alternatives to animal research, leading to reductions in the use of animals in UK research across several therapy areas.

Universities and science minister David Willetts explained that the plan to reduce the use of animals in research would benefit economic growth in the UK life sciences sector.

“Animals are only used when there are no suitable alternatives. But the results we get from research can transform lives and pave the way for new and ground breaking medical advances,” he said.

“By encouraging new cutting-edge approaches to science we will not only improve standards of animal welfare but also reduce costs to industry.”

The strategy was supported by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, which represents pharma companies in the UK.

The ABPI's CEO Stephen Whitehead said: “Animal research plays a small but essential role in medical, veterinary and scientific progress, and is helping us to better understand and improve the treatment of diseases in humans and animals, ultimately ensuring patients have access to innovative life-saving and life-enhancing medicines.

"ABPI members are committed to the 3Rs (replacement, refinement and reduction) ... and our members are extensively involved in 3Rs initiatives at a UK, European and international level.”

10th February 2014

From: Research

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