TNO & Proefdiervrij: Animal Free Innovations

Ever wondered which journey your candy, perfume or aspirin has made before you can find it in the shelf of the drugstore next door?

Worldwide many of the products we use and food we eat are tested on animals before they are sold.

Since the 1980s the number of laboratory animals has decreased vastly from 1.5 million to 0.5 million per year. However, unfortunately, since 2003 this number has not changed.

The use of laboratory animals is not only an ethical issue, doubt also rises whether animal models are actually good predictors for the human body. Is research on a rodent, cat or dog  translatable to us humans? Recently it has been in the news that a new medicine induced complete loss of cognitive functions and even death in some humans, even though it has been evaluated as save in chimpanzees. Moreover, society demands to keep costs of drugs low.

This raises the question whether animal-free innovations might be better predictors of the human body, which at the same time might save costs. Even though technological advances, such as organs on a chip or 3D-printed organs, are promising, the usage of animal-free innovations in research is low.

The Netherlands acknowledge this problem and aim to become a forerunner regarding the usage of animal-free innovations. Stichting Proefdiervrij and TNO intend to be part of this transition. Together they initiated a project to investigate animal-free innovations from an economic perspective, as this view is often overlooked. We are excited to have the chance to contribute to this project, by examining the hurdles during the implementation of animal-free innovations into the private sector.

Our main goal is to develop a conceptual model,  that provides an overview of the supply chain reaching  from the development of an animal-free innovation to its end-use application. We will acquire the information that is necessary to develop this model through interviews with stakeholders and literature research. Afterwards, we will identify the main hurdles that occur during  the implementation of new innovations. Lastly, we will elaborate several scenarios that explore future possibilities with regard to animal-free innovations.

With this project we hope to accelerate the implementation of animal-free innovations. This, in turn, may lead to less pressure on the ethical debate, drugs that are better fitted to the human body and a reduction of drug costs. Hence, science, society and the economy would benefit from these effects.

Lonneke Schrijver, Lara Janssen, Rebecca Geiselmann