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We cautiously welcome UK rejoining Horizon

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Test tubes

Help us end animal testing in the UK

We cautiously welcome the UK’s renewed membership of the Horizon Europe funding programme for research and innovation as an opportunity for greater development of non-animal testing methods in both the UK and Europe.

We share the widespread relief felt amongst the UK’s scientific community that a deal has finally been agreed, but there remains a pressing need on both sides of the channel to embrace innovation in humane and human-relevant science.

At the time that the UK left the EU in January 2020, the development of non-animal methods had received just 0.1% of the total budget of almost €80 billion of Horizon 2020 (the previous phase of the funding programme). This represents a fraction of the money allocated to projects using animal experiments.

Horizon Europe – which has a total budget of €95.5 billion – affords opportunities which individual nations, working on their own, could never attempt.

Rejoining Horizon Europe is particularly apposite for the UK as, in May 2023, the Home Secretary said: “The Government is committed to replacing animals used in science wherever scientifically possible and is confident that the UK science sector and industry has the talent to provide the solutions.”

This came after a YouGov survey, carried out in September 2021, found that 68% of people want a government-led investment strategy to accelerate the availability of non-animal test methods.

Replacing animal use in research and regulatory testing will benefit animals and humans alike. As the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Relevant Science noted in its 2022 report, “Lack of efficacy and safety are major contributory reasons why 92% of candidate drugs fail when tested in clinical trials despite having undergone extensive investigations in animals prior to human trials”. A shift to human relevant, animal free methods for testing potential medicines could go some way to reducing this failure rate.

As well as the scientific benefits of non-animal methods, the economic advantages are undoubted. Even before the UK rejoined Horizon Europe, the non-animal testing sector was expected to contribute £2.5 billion to the UK’s GDP. This represents a forecast increase of 700% since 2017, with scope for so much more, given that funding for innovative non-animal methods in the UK in 2019 amounted to just £2 million per year – approximately 0.02% of the UK’s total R&D expenditure of £10.45bn.

Our UK and EU Head of Public Affairs, Dylan Underhill, said: “The transition to animal-free science in the UK must start today. Greater investment and more focus on what non-animal methods can achieve would help us all – as well as boost the UK economy – and the British public wants their government to accelerate the availability of these animal-free methods too.

“Collaboration can drive innovation in the UK, and once again make Britain a global leader in scientific research.”

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