Pro-Test Italia to rally for science in Rome!

There is no future without research!

That is the stark message that Pro-Test Italia will be taking to the streets of Rome on Thursday 19th September 2013, when will be staging their 2nd major rally in support of animal research and medical progress.

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The need for such a rally could not be more urgent. Despite the success of Pro-Test Italia’s first rally in Milan in June- which sent a strong message that vandalism of scientific research would not be tolerated – there has been little to the cheerful about in the news from Italy in the months since. Last month the Italian Parliament approved a series of amendments – referred to as Article 13 – to the to EU directive 2010/63/EU on animal research.

In an interview with the newspaper La Repubblica, Niccolò Contucci, director general of leading Italian cancer research charity AIRC, was clear about the impact the proposed amendments would have.

 Last year Italians entrusted to us 100 million Euros for us to invest in the fight against cancer. Who do we give those funds to now? A foreign researchers? Some basic research can work with computer science and in vitro studies, but in applied research there are unfortunately no alternatives to laboratory animals .”

There is still a chance to stop these amendments being implemented. As we discussed in a post on this blog last month many politicians began to belatedly realise the damage the amendments would do to many crucial fields of medical research, from transplant science to cancer research, and while impending penalties from the EU meant that the bill transposing the EU directive into Italian law was passed along with the amendment.

Fortunately in doing so the parliament gave the Italian government considerable freedom in implementing them, and the government now has the opportunity to reject the most damaging amendments as they actually contravene the EU directive itself!

So what will the government do?

Well, there are some encouraging signs. As the bill was passed the Italian Health minister stated that she accepted the advice of the parliamentary commission and several orders-of-the-day made by deputies during the debate on Article 13, that some of the amendments are highly problematic both legally and scientifically. Since then, and with the encouragement of several of the largest Italian medical research charities, including the AIRC (cancer research), Telethon Institute (research into genetic disorders) and AISM (multiple sclerosis), over 3,000 Italian scientists have written to the government to oppose the amendments. In the past fortnight Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano, announced that two scientists would be among the four newly appointed senators for life –  a position to which only two scientists have ever previously been appointed. One of these two scientists is Elena Cattaneo, who heads the Laboratory for Stem Cell Biology and Pharmacology of Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Milan, and whose research includes the study of mouse and zebrafish models of disease. In a statement that demonstrated very clearly his appreciation of the dire circumstances facing Italian science, President Napolitano commented on Professor Cattaneo’s appointment that:

…choosing her is meant as an appreciation and an encouragement for many Italians of the new generations who commit themselves, amid difficulties, to scientific research”

So there is a chance for Italian science to avoid going over the cliff, but it will take a concerted effort by supporters of medical research in Italy to make sure that its future is secured. This is where the Pro-Test Italia rally in Rome fits in, it is the perfect opportunity to let Italy’s political classes know how many people value the role of animal research in advancing medicine, and are ready to fight to defend it.

If you will be in Rome or its neighbourhood on Thursday 19th September, or have colleagues or friends who will be there, we strongly encourage you to join the crowd in support of medical progress at the rally, which will be held in via Colonna Antonina (Montecitorio), from 15.30 and 18.30.

You can find out more about the plans for the rally, which is being backed by several leading Italian and European research institutes and scientific associations, on the Pro-Test Italia website (in Italian) and on the Facebook page for the event.

It’s time for science in Italy to make a stand! Pro-Test Italia will be there, will you?

Speaking of Research

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