Animal antibody debate - Netherlands


A government agency, working to reduce the use of animal research in the Netherlands, has described EU Commission calls for a ban on the use of animal-derived antibodies as ‘premature’.

The Netherlands National Committee for the Protection of Animals used for Scientific Purposes (NCad), whose brief is to minimise laboratory animal use, issued its advice in an open letter in response to a controversial report by the Commission.

The Commission’s Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal testing (EURL ECVAM) report, states that the use of animal-derived antibodies for research and treatments of diseases, including Covid-19, are no longer fit for purpose, and that relevant funding bodies should avoid financing such projects and move as soon as possible towards non-animal-derived methods.

In its response NCad states that it is committed to reducing the number of animals used in research, but has concerns about the availability and application of non-animal-derived-antibodies, and believes “a complete ban on the use of animals for antibody production, like the report recommends, therefore seems premature”.

The letter comes as part of a wider call within the scientific community to reconsider the recommendations issued by ECVAM, including a recently published Nature Methods paper by members of Spanish biomedical institutions and EARA.

NCad stressed that it will be necessary to discuss the situation further with experts in the field who can suggest whether the use of non-animal-derived antibodies is suitable in each case.

Antibodies are small proteins produced naturally by the body in response to a foreign object, such as a virus, and form a critical part of the immune response to disease. In biomedical research, antibodies are used widely as tools to help recognise proteins, diagnose conditions or even as a treatment for diseases such as arthritis and cancer. See EARA feature article.

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