The European Parliament’s Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA), which is responsible for science and technology impact assessment, discussed on June 28th, 2022, how an evidence-based action plan for ending the use of animals for research and testing could be established. Prof. Dr. Peter Loskill was invited to the EU Parliament in Brussels to give his scientific assessment on replacing animal testing in research.
The expert for Organ-on-Chip systems clearly answered the question of whether the use of laboratory animals in biomedical research can be ended with a yes, although not in the near future, and with a focus on human-biological research. In making his argument, he referred in particular to the limitations of animal models, especially with regard to the transferability of results to humans. He pointed out that although an abrupt ban on animal experiments would currently represent a drastic obstacle to biomedical research, the technologies to reduce and replace them are already available. This is particularly evident in the pharmaceutical industry, which, in contrast to academic research, is driven by economic constraints regarding the transferability of results to humans and where a decline in the use of animal models can be seen. Among the problems in academic research, Prof. Loskill cited in particular the rigid habitual use of laboratory animals and the dogmas associated with it.
In order to work towards a consistent replacement of animal experiments, he said, it is therefore necessary to move the discussions away from the extremes (“All currently conducted animal experiments are necessary” vs. “Immediate ban on all animal experiments”) and to take measures that promote the development, implementation and use as well as regulatory acceptance of alternative models. It is essential to provide scientists in biomedicine, pharmacology and toxicology with low-threshold access to alternative models and the necessary know-how. In addition, the regulatory process for animal studies must be adapted and expanded so that experts on in vitro and/or in silico models are centrally involved.
Finally, Prof. Loskill emphasized that these measures are a prerequisite for any kind of ban and that they would contribute to more human-centered research.