The global antibody industry is worth 80 billion dollars and relies heavily on animals to produce the antibodies that are used to detect the vast range of molecules indicative of state of health, safety or the environment.Scientists from the Universities of Nottingham, Toronto, Utrecht and Lund in Sweden say millions of animals are still being authorised for routine scientific procedures when there is a tried and tested alternative. They add that the use of animals in consumer society is effectively 'hidden' and products assumed to be 'animal-friendly' are mere ruse. Animal friendly antibody production technique using bacteriophage viruses instead of live animals is being overlooked.
The scientists are proposing a seven point EU led action plan by the wider scientific community and biotechnology industry.
• The replacement of animal immunisation methods for antibody production, including the import of antibodies and antibody-containing products unless it can be demonstrated on a case-by-case basis that Animal Friendly affinity reagents (AFAs) cannot be applied.
• An expert working group should be established to set up a roadmap for moving away from animal immunisation-based techniques for antibody production, in light of the scientific feasibility and commercial availability of AFAs.
• Implementation programmes should be set up to facilitate the transfer of establishments to the new technology. These should include centres of excellence for training in AFA-based technologies to ensure that antibody producers are fully supported.
• Measures should be taken to ensure that animal-derived antibodies manufactured outside the EU adhere to European standards to avoid ethics dumping in regions where animal welfare is less well regulated.
• The European Union Reference Laboratory for alternatives to animal testing (EURL ECVAM) should extend its field of activities with its international collaborative partners to include the production of AFAs and their subsequent use.
• EU and national agencies who are committed to the 3Rs and who execute EU regulations at an operational level for the commercial production of cosmetics, medicines, household products, and food or to safeguard our health or the environment should reinforce this action and no longer permit the import or use of animal-derived antibodies and antibody-containing products aimed to monitor, detect, diagnose, or extract targets of interest.
• Subsequent reports from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the statistics on the number of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes should include data on the use of animals for antibody production as an independent category.
Details appear in the latest issue of journal Trends in Biotechnology. Read it HERE