This week the Home Office publishes its annual statistics for scientific procedures on animals. If recent trends are repeated, we are likely to see yet another increase in animal use. As scientists, we believe reducing and replacing animal use is not simply a legal or ethical imperative. Other compelling drivers include the urgent need for more human-relevant research results to improve disappointing clinical success rates for new medicines, innovation as an economic stimulus, and remaining competitive with global science leaders.
A host of powerful human-biology-based cellular, genomic and computational tools are available that can often better predict people's real-world reactions to drugs and chemicals than conventional animal tests. For many of us, replacing, reducing and refining animal experiments is driven by a desire to develop better approaches to researching human illness. Research innovation can bring huge societal benefits by improving the speed, reliability and human-relevance of the tools we use to answer biomedical questions.
Britain has, in recent years, increased investment in non-animal research. But there is still much more we could do to lead the world. The EU's Horizon 2020 framework programme for research and innovation funding provides an opportunity for Britain to demonstrate that leadership. We urge the UK government to support substantial, dedicated funding for emerging and future alternative technologies including such endeavours as mapping the "human toxome".
While there remains much vital debate within the scientific community about the efficacy of animal use, we scientists will undoubtedly be better equipped to tackle the major human health challenges of the 21st century if there is increased funding and support for sophisticated, human-relevant research.
Dr Kelly BéruBé Director of lung and particle research group, Cardiff University
Professor Michael Coleman School of life and health sciences, Aston University
Dr Mark Cunningham School of neurology, neurobiology and psychiatry, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
Dr Amanda Ellison Cognitive neuroscience research unit, Durham University
Dr Franco Falcone Associate professor, faculty of science, University of Nottingham
Professor Paul L Furlong Clinical neuroimaging, director, Aston Brain Centre, Aston University
Professor Graeme Houston Clinical radiology, University of Dundee
Professor C Vyvyan Howard Centre for molecular bioscience, University of Ulster
Prof CH Knowles Clinical professor of surgical research, Centre for digestive diseases, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University London
Dr Lindsay Marshall School of life and health sciences, Aston University
Dr George McKerr Biomedical sciences research institute, University of Ulster
Dr Leslie R Noble School of biological sciences, University of Aberdeen
Professor Barbara Pierscionek Associate dean, research and enterprise, Kingston University London
Dr Andrew Rowan President, Humane Society International
Professor Gareth Sanger Neuropharmacology, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London
Dr Vasanta Subramanian Reader in vertebrate developmental genetics and stem cell biology, University of Bath