Washington Update

FASEB Animal Research Update: New Factsheets and Interim NIH Working Group Report

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Thursday, December 19, 2019

On November 18, FASEB hosted a webinar announcing the launch of “Animal Research Saves Lives and Cures Diseases,” a new series of factsheets highlighting the role of various research organisms in advancing our understanding of biology and disease.

Each of the three factsheets underscores the value of animal research for both humans and animals, as both populations often suffer from the same diseases and conditions. Using clinical examples, the new resources demonstrate how species-specific research in animal models ranging from canines to nonhuman primates to llamas have elucidated a broad range of therapies and cures.

While most research (about 97 percent) is conducted in rodents, fish, and birds, research with other organisms remains central to the scientific enterprise. From treatment for diabetes and sickle-cell anemia to the development of CAT-scans and cochlear implants, these animal models continue to strengthen modern medicine.

In June, NIH Director Francis Collins announced the establishment of a new Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), Enhancing Reproducibility and Rigor in Animal Research. It is charged with assessing and making recommendations to improve experimental design: optimizing translational validity, enhancing training, and increasing the transparency of research studies involving animal models. A third of the Working Group’s external members were recommended to NIH leadership by FASEB as subject matter experts in these areas.

During the December ACD meeting, Working Group Co-Chair Lawrence Tabak, DDS, PhD, Principal Deputy Director at NIH, provided an interim update on the group’s efforts. Thus far, the group has identified several areas for initial focus, including the need for a common vocabulary, broader discussion of study design and analysis elements, and the values and limitations of different research organisms for a particular line of inquiry. A final report and recommendations are expected to be released in 2020.