Potential applications of non-animal technologies

Non-animal technologies have the potential to drive innovation across a wide range of applications in the biosciences. From basic research, to human medicine and agrochemicals, animals are used to study human and animal health and disease, and test the safety and efficacy of new drugs, chemicals and consumer products. However, there is often poor translation of the results from animal studies into humans, leading to high attrition rates, increased costs and stifled productivity. The present scientific, industrial and regulatory environment provides exciting opportunities to engage the scientific community in developing solutions to current problems which not only minimise animal use but also stimulate innovation. These problems are many: the decreasing productivity of the pharmaceutical industry, the complex regulatory structure surrounding the chemical and consumer products industries and the increasing scrutiny of the quality and value of animal research in the public sector.

See the right hand side panel for examples of how non-animal technologies are being applied.

Market opportunities of non-animal technologies

Poorly predictive animal models of safety and efficacy are one of the main causes of high attrition rates seen in pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical chemical development. This represents a huge financial burden for industry, with the cost of developing a drug estimated at $1778 million. Without attrition this figure reduces to $394 million.

As a result of this, the in vitro/in silico testing market is experiencing rapid growth: in 2012 it was worth an estimated $4.9 billion dollars a year and it is predicted to grow to $9.9 billion by 2017. Innovate UK's Emerging Technologies programme has recognised the disruptive potential of non-animal technologies and the commercial benefits this offers. Working with the NC3Rs, BBSRC, EPSRC and the MRC, Innovate UK are investing in the development of non-animal methodologies to produce improved tests and systems which more accurately predict human health and disease and result in better science.

Case studies

A human-derived cell line for assessing genotoxicity

A novel human cell assay to identify genotoxic compounds earlier in development and reduce late stage attrition. The technology has been adopted by over 100 companies globally across multiplt sectors.

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A non-animal model for assessing gastrointestinal liability issues of new chemicals

A non-veterbrate model for identifying drugs which have poor palatability and potential emetic liability. Both of these can have a significant impact on patient compliance and can prevent the development of a valuable new drug.

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Improving cancer drug development using micro-cancers

A three-dimensional micro-cancer model able to measure cancer growth, angiogenesis and metastasis without using animals. This has the potential to streamline the cancer drug development process and reduce costly late stage attrition.

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