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HEARTS Act inspires NIH investment in non-animal research methods

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The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) will prioritize investment in non-animal methods of research following a working group report inspired by the HEARTS Act.

In early February, the Director of the NIH, Monica Bertagnolli, accepted recommendations put forth in a NIH working group report, “Catalyzing the Development and Use of Novel Alternative Methods”* which calls for greater investment in non-animal testing methods.

The report highlights the many ways non-animal research and testing methods (called “Novel Alternative Methods” in the report) are already benefiting many areas of biomedical research, “including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, mental illness, infectious disease, rare diseases, and more”. It also sets out specific recommendations for the NIH to prioritize and further capitalize on the benefits of NAMS in the future.

The report follows our multi-year effort to advance the goals of the Humane and Existing Alternatives in Research and Testing Sciences (HEARTS) Act and was the direct result of the language used in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations bill, at the behest of the HEARTS Act authors.

The resulting report was not only inspired by the HEARTS Act – many of the recommendations included in the report also reinforce the need for such legislation. For example, the HEARTS act would ensure grant proposals are reviewed by at least one person with expertise in non-animal research methods. The NIH report listed “Promote training for grant reviewers to better understand how to evaluate the use of NAMs in fundamental and applied research grants” as a recommended action point.

The HEARTS Act would also establish a “National Center for Alternatives to Animals in Research and Testing” within the NIH, with the goal of aiding, funding, and training to educate scientists in alternatives to the use of animals in research, and support for human-centered methods. Likewise, the NIH report made several references to the need for training, investment, and collaboration in the use and development of NAMS, and recommended that the NIH “establish dedicated and centralized core facilities as national or regional resources to develop and run NAM assays to reduce costs, leverage scale, and provide training”.

Watch a short video about the HEARTS Act:

Monica Engebretson, our Head of Public Affairs for North America said, “The NIH is the world’s largest funder of animal experiments, but most taxpayers would prefer that it prioritize research utilizing scientifically valid non-animal methods. If the NIH takes seriously the recommendations put forth by the working group report, it could have global impact both in terms of delivering new treatments and cures for human conditions, and in phasing out the use of animals in research and testing.”

The working group report is a tremendous step toward achieving the goals of the HEARTS Act, and it is still important to continue to build support for the bill.

U.S. residents can help advance the HEARTS Act by contacting their U.S. Representative and asking that they become a cosponsor of the bill.