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Impetus Project Report: What is needed to replace animals in biomedical research?

At FRAME, we often ask how we can make the biggest strides towards a world in which human-based methods, and not animals, are the first choice for human biology, disease, and drug research.

In 2021, there were 3.06 million scientific procedures carried out on animals in Great Britain – 1.73 million for experimental purposes, and 1.33 million for the creation and breeding of genetically altered animals.
Of the 1.73 million experimental procedures:

  • 882,300 were for the purpose of basic research.
  • 467,100 were for the purpose of applied research.
  • 363,300 were for regulatory purposes.

There is no exact figure for the number of animals used in science worldwide per year, due to the lack of a universal recording system, however, the RSPCA estimate the figure to be around 100 million, as of 2021.

In recent years there have been many developments in the area of replacement, including the growth in the number of individuals and organisations working on aspects of the issue. 3Rs centres exist in many countries and work diligently to replace the use of animals in research where possible. Researchers are constantly developing, trialling, and validating new human-based methods and models.

There are many areas that need work, however, there is little coordination or overview of how much progress is actually being made towards an animal-free biomedical research system. It is important to consider whether some areas are being overlooked, particularly in basic biological and medical research, which are not governed by guidelines in the same way as regulatory testing of chemicals and medicines. For example, are there research areas where a combination of available alternatives could, with a joined-up approach and collaboration, replace animals today? In areas where animal research remains necessary, as there are no viable alternatives on the horizon, what is needed to bring replacement one step closer?

The aim of the Impetus Project was to seek views from experts within industry and academia, to answer two key questions:
1. What are the areas of biomedical research or testing where animals are currently used but could be replaced in the short term (5-10 years)?
2. What are the areas of biomedical research or testing where replacement looks unlikely in the long term (20+ years)?

These questions will allow us to identify where the most impact could be made towards the replacement of animals in the short and long term.

Download your copy of the Impetus Project

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