The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us of the devastating consequences that the transmission of pathogens from animals to humans can have. It’s not only the animals themselves that suffer from epidemics and diseases. According to the One Health approach, they need a good supply of medicines to protect their own health and that of humans.
3Rs 2.0: refining, reducing and replacing animal experiments with the aid of digitalisation
By focusing on «3R 2.0», Interpharma wants to initiate a discussion on the possibilities offered by digitalisation with the aim of seeing a further substantial reduction in animal experiments. Data platforms and big data, in combination with artificial intelligence (AI), have the potential to reduce the number of animal experiments, replace them or refine the quality of those experiments that are still unavoidable. By collecting and analysing large volumes of data, researchers can gain important insights that enable them to develop and validate alternative methods. Data platforms can also be used to collect and share information on animal experiments that have already been carried out for the purpose of medical research. Networking in this way can prevent experiments from being repeated. Furthermore, data analyses can identify patterns and connections, meaning that animal experiments can be conducted in a more targeted and efficient manner. But data alone is not enough to replace or reduce animal experiments. Data experts and researchers are needed to draw the right conclusions from this data. With a view to ensuring new active substances are safe, ethical aspects must also be considered before these substances are used in clinical trials on humans.
Intellectual property needs to remain protected
If data from preclinical studies is to be shared widely, the protection of intellectual property must be taken into account. Companies and researchers invest a lot of time, money and resources in developing new treatments and drugs. So when data is exchanged, suitable measures need to be taken to ensure that intellectual property is appropriately protected. This can be done by concluding confidentiality agreements or using secure data platforms with suitable access and security controls, for example. It is vital that all parties involved in platform projects understand the importance of protecting intellectual property and take appropriate precautions to safeguard the rights of all those involved.
We are convinced that the opportunities presented by data platforms, big data and artificial intelligence have the potential to help us make progress in the 3Rs too. Let’s start talking about it!
Other strategic issues on our platform
In another focal topic, we highlight the connection between human and animal health, and the associated One Health approach. And finally, Birgit Ledermann, Novartis Global Animal Welfare and Compliance 3Rs Leader, explains in an interview what role the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC) plays in improving standards in responsible research with animals worldwide. We hope you find our articles interesting.
Dr. René P. Buholzer
Networking data from preclinical research and giving additional impetus to the aims of the 3Rs – can it work?
The systematic use of the 3Rs principles of Reduce, Refine and Replace have led to significant improvements in preclinical research over the last few decades. The reduction in animal experiments could be even greater if alternative methods were more widely recognised by the regulatory authorities. But what else might be possible if data from in vivo experiments was centrally available and widely shared?
- 1. The 3Rs principles are making a difference in preclinical research
- 2. Harnessing the potential of big data and artificial intelligence for the 3Rs in preclinical research
- 3. First steps taken towards data networking
- 4. Jointly tackling cultural change for the 3Rs using big data
- 5. What the experts say
The Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC) International is an independent non-profit organisation that promotes animal welfare in science through voluntary evaluation and accreditation programmes. Several research sites belonging to Interpharma member companies are AAALAC certified.
Breakthrough innovative medicines and treatments are partly the result of animal experiments. Given the biological similarities between humans and animals, it is possible to transfer the results of experiments.
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Ethics and safety
- 3. When there aren’t enough volunteers
- 4. Evolutionary kinship
- 5. Valuable pointers on the cause of disease
- 6. Results are transferable
- 7. Animal experiments benefit veterinary medicine too
- 8. Major progress thanks to animal experiments
- 9. Animal experiments reduce animal experiments
Animals that are used for experiments in Switzerland are generally bred specifically for this purpose. How the animals are bred, kept, transported and received at the destination laboratory is strictly regulated. Animal well-being comes first at all times.
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Strict requirements for companies and breeders
- 3. Regular inspections and audits
- 4. Transport as short and stress-free as possible
- 5. Meticulous planning with experienced partners
- 6. Strict rules and emergency plans
- 7. Animals are settled in at their destination
- 8. A complex process demands exact planning
Research institutions keep more animals than they use in experiments. Daniel Breustedt, Team Leader in the Scientific Operations/Comparative Medicine department at Novartis’ NIBR, explains why this cannot be completely avoided and what options are available for reducing animal use.
Just a year after the outbreak of the pandemic, various highly effective vaccines were already available. The first highly automated coronavirus tests also allowed test capacity to be ramped up early on. Without the responsible use of animals this would not have been possible.
- 1. Rapid test infrastructure and vaccine development
- 2. Reasons for the rapid progress
- 3. Research on mRNA goes back 30 years
- 4. International collaboration
- 5. Openness and flexibility of authorities
- 6. Basic research is the cornerstone of all medical research
- 7. Preclinical testing of safety and efficacy
- 8. For medical progress
Today, the pharmaceutical industry thinks holistically about well-being in medical research: animal welfare and a caring corporate culture go hand in hand.
In 2016, the Netherlands considered a complete ban on animal experiments by 2025. The plan was rejected: it is not possible without animal experiments.
With its cross-border collaboration, the research-based pharmaceutical industry is making an unparalleled effort to combat the Covid-19 crisis. And animal experiments form a part of this effort that is indispens- able for the development of new medicines and vaccines
- 1. Race against time
- 2. Pooling expertise and resources
- 3. Research into existing substances
- 4. Vaccine development in record time
- 5. Why animal experiments are necessary
- 6. Guaranteeing supply security
- 7. Excursus: People’s initiative “Yes to a ban on experiments in animals and humans – Yes to research avenues with impetus for safety and progress”
Ten years ago, research-based pharmaceutical companies in Switzerland committed to the responsible handling of animals in research with the 10-point Animal Welfare Charter, which set the ball rolling not only in Switzerland but also internationally.
- 1. Improving quality of life for humans and animals
- 2. Making sure animals are handled responsibly
- 3. Tasks and aims of the Swiss 3Rs Competence Centre (3RCC)
- 5. Involvement of academic institutions –working together internationally
- 5. Dialogue with interest groups and the public
- 6. Promising alternatives
- 7. Excursus: Interview with Dr. Birgit Ledermann
Animal welfare legislation in Switzerland is one of the strictest worldwide. Animal experiments may only be conducted if no alternatives are available.
Many years of high-precision work and interdisciplinary expertise go into a medicine. To ensure that medication is reliably effective in humans, research with animals is absolutely essential in the development of new medicines.
Animal welfare legislation in Switzerland is among the strictest in the world. Animal experiments may only be carried out if no alternatives are available. Strict regulations also apply for the housing of laboratory animals, as they do for the training and continuing education of researchers who work with animals.