In developing new medicines, the pharmaceutical industry has relied on antiquated research paradigms, established in a different era when the collective human understanding of animal biology was very different. The limitations of animal models in research were somewhat known, but at the time, they were the best available tools for predicting drug safety and response before human trials. In the intervening years, research conducted, and data revealed have given us reason to question the status quo.
Today, more human-relevant models, such as new organ-on-a-chip technologies, exist which can help researchers understand mechanisms of disease and drug action. Newer pharmaceutical advances which harness the human immune system, or human-specific biological factors, represent roughly 40 percent of the pharmaceutical pipeline. Animal models simply don’t work in predicting human responses to many biologic medicines and vaccines, and they present a myriad of ethical concerns and geopolitical challenges.
To improve drug discovery, a paradigm shift is needed. Governments need to invest in future-focused solutions and create pathways for regulators to approve safe and effective drugs based on a wider variety of human-relevant modeling methods. At Emulate, we believe that the Humane Research and Testing Act (HR 1744), recently introduced, is the first step toward that paradigm shift the pharmaceutical industry so desperately needs, and we are proud to give it our endorsement.
The bipartisan legislation introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) would establish the National Center for Alternatives to Research and Testing under the National Institutes of Health. The new Center would be dedicated to increasing transparency and understanding regarding the use of animals in research and testing and would be focused on ultimately reducing the number of animals used in such practices. It would require the NIH to develop, fund and execute a plan to enumerate the number of animals used in biomedical research, and incentivize companies to use non-animal methods by educating and training scientists on human-relevant research methods.
Emulate is proud to endorse this legislation as we believe it is an essential first step toward ensuring that human-relevant models play a larger role in biomedical research. We applaud Rep. Hastings and Rep. Buchanan for their leadership on this issue, as well as Representatives Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) who are original co-sponsors of the bill.