We are delighted that Dr Pandora Pound, PhD has joined us as our new Research Consultant. Pandora has been conducting research since 1990 and has worked within universities and medical schools throughout London and the South West, mainly in the field of public health. She was an early proponent of the need for systematic reviews of animal research and has published widely on the need for an evidence-based approach in this field. Two of her seminal publications include “Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans?” and “Is animal research sufficiently evidence based to be a cornerstone of biomedical research?”. In 2017 she left academia to focus on this issue and to work towards more human-relevant approaches to the development and testing of medicines.
We are delighted to announce that Dr Andrea Wraith BDS, MA, MB BChir, MMedSci has joined us as our new Medical Director. Andrea qualified as a dentist from Kings College London in 1990 and as a doctor from Cambridge in 2002. She has worked as a hospital anaesthetist and in A&E. Her professional life has centred on promoting the provision of safe and effective sedation in medicine and dentistry through both education and regulation. She provides sedation services for dentists in the primary care setting and runs courses teaching the dental team how to manage medical emergencies. From 2016 to 2017, she was President of the Section of Anaesthesia of the Royal Society of Medicine. Dr Wraith has acted as an expert advisor to local health authorities and lectured on sedation related issues to dentists, doctors and nurses both nationally and internationally. Patient safety has always been at her core.
The harm-benefit analysis is a cornerstone of animal research regulation in the EU and elsewhere. When applications for research projects involving animals are submitted for licensing the regulators weigh up the harms that animals are expected to suffer against the anticipated benefits of that research to humans.
Researchers at the University of Bristol reviewed a sample of animal research studies from 1967 to 2005. All the studies were judged to be of poor quality and most involved severe harms to animals. When the harms to animals were weighed against the benefits to humans less than 7% of the studies were judged to be permissible in terms of minimising harms to animals whilst being associated with benefits for humans.
Dr Pandora Pound, who led the research, says, “The regulatory systems in place when these studies were conducted failed to safeguard animals from severe suffering or to ensure that only beneficial, scientifically rigorous research was conducted.” The research is published in PLOS ONE
Excerpt: Animals are used in biomedical research to study disease, develop new medicines, and test them for safety… A revolution in science and technology has produced a new generation of more relevant and predictive tools, which could be used to create safer medicines more quickly and at less cost: a win-win situation that should be supported by everyone. The obstacle preventing this from happening is governments’ continued insistence on animal testing. Yet the evidence is clear that reliance on animals as surrogate humans puts patients at risk, can delay medical progress, and can cause effective treatments to be wrongly discarded. There is a compelling case to be made that animal research is an ethical issue for humans as well as for animals.
Dr Azra Raza, Professor of Medicine at Columbia University in New York, and Science Adviser to Safer Medicines Trust, gives a fascinating one-hour interview on the human imperative in cancer research in this highly informative podcast. In 2015, Professor Raza gave a powerful and moving 13-minute TEDx Talk on the same theme, which you can view on YouTube.
A report was published in January by the Medicines Discovery Catapult and the BioIndustry Association, entitled: State of the Discovery Nation 2018. Based on surveys and in-depth interviews with more than 100 senior executives of drug discovery companies, the report offers a blueprint for successful pharmaceutical research, where patients and human data are placed at the heart of drug discovery. The current research process depends on animal models of disease and toxicology that are “poor approximations of humans”; consequently 40 per cent of new drugs fail when first tried in real patients. The rate at which new drugs are launched per $1bn spent on pharma R&D is one-30th of the level 40 years ago but “humanising” the early stages of research would ease the “productivity crisis” in pharmaceutical research.
“Discovery must start with biological targets derived from patient data and samples, which create candidate drugs that are highly selective for proven human disease targets in well-defined patient subgroups, not animal models,” said Chris Molloy, chief executive of the Medicines Discovery Catapult, quoted in the Financial Times.
Abbreviated abstract: Animal toxicity studies used to assess the safety of new candidate pharmaceuticals prior to their progression into human clinical trials are unable to assess the risk of non-pharmacologically mediated idiosyncratic adverse drug reactions (ADRs), the most frequent of which are drug-induced liver injury and cardiotoxicity… The chemical insults can be detected using in vitro assays. These enable useful discrimination between drugs that cause high versus low levels of idiosyncratic ADR concern… Widespread acceptance and use of such assays has been hampered by the lack of correlation between idiosyncratic human ADR risk and toxicities observed in vivo in animals.
Sir David Amess MP hosted the launch event, which was full to capacity with senior scientists and MPs whose enthusiasm and support were palpable.
Working together, the Alliance will help to speed the transition away from animal testing, towards more efficient and predictive models based on human biology. Many breakthroughs are lost in translation from animals to humans. There is now a tremendous opportunity to make drug development faster and safer, using human relevant technologies. Some exciting technologies were highlighted at the meeting, including cutting-edge models of the liver, linked together with other organs to realistically mimic the human body.
Sir David said: “Britain is a world leader in life science research. But we had better look to our laurels if we do not want to be left behind, while others take the lead in embracing more predictive tools based on human biology. I wish the new Alliance every success with this hugely important initiative.”