October 21st 2021


18 de Outubro de 2021


EARA News Digest 2021 - Week 42

Welcome to your Monday morning update, from EARA, on the latest news in biomedical science, policy and openness on animal research. 

Animal use and the ‘colossal success’ of Covid-19 research

New research has highlighted the critical role that animals played in Covid-19 research in Germany.

A team at the German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Bf3R) showed that between February 2020 and July 2021, 61,389 animals from seven different species (ferrets, guinea pigs, hamsters, mice, monkeys, pigs and rats) were used, with mice (90%) and hamsters (7%) being the most used in both basic research and vaccine development.

“This colossal success of science rests in large part on the shoulders of animals that were used in basic and pre-clinical research and regulatory testing”, said the report published in Embo Reports.

To measure the numbers of animals used, in 102 studies approved by the German authorities, the report analysed non-technical summaries (NTS) - short project descriptions written by research teams to explain their work to a non-expert audience.

The low number (38) of monkeys reported, led the authors to suggest that tight regulations on primate use in the EU may mean that ‘experiments were performed elsewhere to expedite critical studies’, such as some BioNTech vaccine studies being conducted in the US.

And commenting on the reason for compiling the report, the authors said: “The recent SARS-CoV-2 pandemic provides an opportunity to replace disinformation and allow for a constructive debate on the importance of animals in research.”



Dengue fever breakthrough with antiviral development

Researchers in Belgium, at EARA member KU Leuven and the Centre for Drug Design and Discovery (CD3), have developed a treatment for dengue fever - a disease affecting 100 million people each year.
Dengue fever, caused by a virus transmitted by mosquitoes, currently has no prevention (an existing vaccine offers only partial protection) or cure and is listed in the WHO top ten threats to global health.
In collaboration with another EARA member, Janssen Pharmaceutica, the team designed an antiviral which prevents the virus from multiplying by blocking the interaction of two of its proteins.
Using mice, the researchers showed that giving a low dose of the antiviral as a tablet could also prevent infection by the virus, meaning it could be used alongside the existing vaccine to have greater effect.
“Years of intensive collaboration have now resulted in an ultra-potent dengue inhibitor that we are proud to present,” said Dr Patrick Chaltin, managing director of CD3.
The antiviral treatment will now be developed into an easy-to-administer formulation, which will then need to undergo human trials.



UK cancer exhibition highlights animal research

The first-ever exhibition on cancer research in the UK, pairing patients with scientists to discuss the topic, has opened in London. 

Outwitting Cancer - Making Sense of Nature’s Enigma, at the Francis Crick Institute (until July 2022 and reviewed in the Guardian) includes eight films capturing conversations between researchers, patients and those with personal perspectives on cancer. 

Alongside the video interviews, Adrian Hayday, a senior group leader at the Crick, has been recorded explaining the importance of animal research.

The films include studies with nematode worms to understand the role of DNA in cancer cells, research with mice to study a rare blood disease, and why elephants can help us to study cancer, are some of the examples displayed at the exhibition.  

Discussing the free exhibition, Paul Nurse, chief executive officer of the Crick, said: “We feel that scientists have to be open and available to the community."



3Rs webinars starting this week 

A series of four free events hosted by a pan-European group of 3Rs centres, will take place online from this Thursday until December.  

Aimed at addressing the challenges and opportunities of replacing basement membrane extracts - animal-derived products to support cell growth – the webinars are for researchers, regulators, funding organisations and publishers.  

The sessions are organised by EARA member Charité 3R , Germany, the Danish 3R-center, the Swedish 3Rs Center, the Swiss 3R Competence Centre, the UK National Centre for the 3Rs and the 3Rs-Centre of the Utrecht University, Netherlands. 

The first session, Replacing basement membrane extracts (BMEs): An introduction, takes place on Thursday, 21 October, 12:30 – 13:30 CET. Registration here.    

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