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.

Best regards,

Dr. René P. Buholzer

CEO, Interpharma

The health of humans and animals belongs together

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.

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?

Accreditation by AAALAC International has improved standards for animals in research

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.

Well-being comes first for animals travelling from breeding facility to laboratory

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.

«Mendel’s laws of inheritance cannot be overridden»

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.

Development of vaccines and tests for SARS-CoV-2

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.

Culture of Care

Today, the pharmaceutical industry thinks holistically about well-being in medical research: animal welfare and a caring corporate culture go hand in hand.

Dutch ban on animal experiments

In 2016, the Netherlands considered a complete ban on animal experiments by 2025. The plan was rejected: it is not possible without animal experiments.

Fighting Covid-19 together

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

The long path to a medicine

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 experiments in Switzerland

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.