Covid-19 virus reveals the need for animal testing

This article is reprinted from Yleisradio Oy, Finland's national public broadcasting company, featuring an interview with Emrah Yatkin, director of the Center for Experimental Animals at EARA member the University of Turku.


Efforts have long been made to replace animal experiments. Public opinion on animal testing has been often been negative, although experimental animals are well cared for. For example, the European Commission's research center in Italy is developing new methods to replace animal testing.

Emrah Yatkin, Director of the Center for Experimental Animals at the University of Turku, and Nina Juoperi, Head of the Animal Unit, study the movement of rats (Lassi Lahteenmaki)


Coronavirus came and confused many things. It also gave rise to an evaluation of animal experiments from a new point of view. With corona, the scientific community has woken up to realize how little is known about Covid-19, the spread of the coronavirus, the mechanism of action, and the devastation it causes.


"So we need basic research, which includes animal research," says Emrah Yatkin, director of the University of Turku's Center for Experimental Animals .


A couple of months ago, it was discovered around the world that the animal models used in the SARS studies were no longer available.


“Researchers were in a hurry to get animal models that can be used to study Covid-19 and to develop vaccines and drugs,” Yatkin continues.


According to the director of the university's experimental animal center, more research work related to the corona is likely to come to Turku.


Domestic research needs to be safeguarded

Western pharmaceutical companies have relocated a significant portion of their pharmaceutical production and safety research to Asia. Behind the phenomenon are the globalization of the 21st century and the cheap costs of the East.


The relocation of production and research to Asia has proved to be a threat, according to Emrah Yatkin, director of the Experimental Animal Center. This is especially the case now during the corona, when there is no certainty that the necessary medicines, vaccines and supplies will be available in Finland. Now Finland should invest in pharmaceutical research.


- It may not be economically productive, but strategically important areas should still be maintained in Turku and Finland, Yatkin hopes.


The place of the drug center in the search

The University of Turku Experimental Animal Center operates in Kupittaa. The house is home to, among other things, a few thousand mice and rats, whose homes are air-conditioned, stimulating and clean.


Despite the Covid-19, research work has continued and the animals are being cared for normally.


The Turku Experimental Animal Center is the second largest animal unit in Finland. According to GLP certification, the Turku Center is the only institution in the country where the preclinical safety studies of chemicals and medicines required by the authorities can be performed. Preclinical research is the research phase that precedes human research.


GLP certification ensures that research is conducted professionally and in accordance with standard operating procedures. To ensure traceability, all work steps are documented and the accuracy of the equipment is ensured.


“Committed staff is required to reliably document all steps, including failures during operations,” says Emrah Yatkin, head of the Experimental Animal Center.


The Turku Experimental Animal Center already cooperates with numerous companies in the field, neighboring countries and the EU. Through Turku-based pharmaceutical companies, the cooperation extends to international pharmaceutical companies.


The location of the Finnish Drug Development Center has been discussed for a long time and a decision is expected in the near future. Turku has hopes that it will be located on the banks of the Aura.


By Lassi Lahteenmaki

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