The European Commission’s proposed €80 billion programme for investment in research and innovation is a chance for the European Union to lead the world in the use of in vitro and computational techniques that can substitute for animal research, argues Human Society International/Europe (HSI Europe).

As the animal protection organisation notes, the European Parliament has just started debating the Commission’s proposal for a regulation establishing Horizon 2020 as a Framework Programme for Research and Innovation.

Introduced last November, the proposal is part of the Innovation Union, a flagship initiative aimed at enhancing Europe’s global competitiveness. Horizon 2020 effectively succeeds the EU’s €54.6 billion Seventh Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration activities (FP7), which runs from 2007 to 2013.

Horizon 2020, which is slated to run from 2014 to 2020, would bring together for the first time under a single programme all of the research and innovation funding currently provided through the Framework Programmes for Research and Technical Development, the innovation-related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme, and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

Cutting edge

By funding advanced research at the cutting-edge of science, HSI Europe says, Horizon 2020 will “better equip EU scientists to tackle the major human and environmental health challenges we face in the twenty-first century”.

In that respect it is vital, the organisation contends, that “substantial” funding is directed at “advanced, human-relevant research and testing methods”.

Techniques such as state-of-the-art cellular, computer and robotic tools are “already superseding many of the limitations of traditional methods, particularly the poor productivity of traditional animal-based approaches which can delay vital medical research”, HSDI Europe claims.

Fail in humans

According to US Food and Drug Administration estimates, 92% of new drug candidates that appear safe and effective in animal studies fail when given to humans, it says.

“It is clear that in order to reverse the slow pace of progress in key areas such as cancer, asthma and degenerative neurological disorders, we need far greater investment in sophisticated tools and technologies that are more relevant to humans,” HSI Europe adds.

By investing in emerging and future research technologies, “we can harness the very latest human health and drug discovery advances that science has to offer and improve the quality of our medical research endeavour”, the organisation states.