Speaking of 2013: A year in summary

As another year for Speaking of Research has passed it seems only appropriate to spend a moment looking back.

Animal research is important because of its contributions to human and animal health. In 2013 we saw a promising clinical trial for epidermolysis bullosa (EB), the development of pluripotent human stem cells from cloned human skin  cells, a new diabetes treatment developed from the Gila Monster, the first transplanted liver that had been preserved at room temperature, and a gene therapy for hemophilia A in dogs. Then, of course, the Nobel Prizes reminded us of the value of animal research once again. No doubt 2014 will continue to push the limits of medical science, with animal research continuing to play a vital role.

Sadly, despite the many successes of animal research, animal rights extremism was in the rise in Europe in 2013, particularly in Italy. In response to an attack on the University of Milan, over 5,000 people signed the Basel Declaration’s call for solidarity. There was hope, with the rise of Pro-Test Italia, who held their first rally in June 2013. Sadly, in August 2013, the Italian Chamber of Deputies passed amendments which would limit some aspects of research in Italy. Just before the New Year, Caterina Simonsen, an Italian veterinary student, received a string of abuse for posting a message on Facebook about animal research is keeping her alive (expect us to write more on this in the coming days). See her message below:

Translation: ""I am 25 thanks to genuine research that includes experiments on animals. Without research, I would have been dead at nine""
Translation: “I am 25 thanks to genuine research that includes experiments on animals. Without research, I would have been dead at nine”

In our blog, we spent a fair bit of time looking at the process of drug development and the regulations involved. In 2013, the UK transposed EU Directive 2010/63/EU, updating and harmonising animal research regulation in the EU, into UK law. The EU released its 2012 statistics on animal research. We wrote about how research progresses from an idea to a study and clarified differences between “animal testing” and “animal research”. Expect us to continue such posts.

Animal rights activism also persisted through 2013. PETA’s ongoing campaign against UW Madison involved celebrities crashing meetings (among other celebrity shenanigans), creating video games where characters must beat up scientists (also see PETA’s pathetic defence), putting out expensive bus adverts condemning UW Madison, and generally ignoring all inspections that found no wrongdoing by the University of Wisconsin Madison. We have discussed PETA in other contexts, such as the hypocrisy of one of scientific consultants, Dr Laurence A. Hansen. Activity by groups like PETA made us look long and hard about what makes a good response to animal rights allegations.

As usual there was much debunking of animal rights misinformation. Prof Robin Lovell-Badge provided us with two posts which dealt with statistics which are misused by members of the animal rights community – one on the FDA’s drug failure rates, and a second on the success rate of animal research. Mark Wanner of Jackson Labs explained why failures in some animal models do not mean failures in others. We spent time debunking the Huffington Post diatribes of Aysha Akhtar, twice, as well as putting the story straight on the history of diabetes, and debunking the myths of a new UK activist group, For Life on Earth.

We had a variety of guest posters this year which included Kelly Walton explaining why she became a laboratory animal veterinarianPeter Wright discussing UK regulations, and Brian Anderson explaining how animal research was saving the life of his daughter Liviya, who suffers from aplastic anemia. We will be hoping for many more guest posts in 2014, and encourage people to write about their research in the Speaking of Your Research series.

Thank you to all who have followed us this year. Please continue to help us, reading and sharing our writings, in the hope we can make 2014 the best year for animal research outreach yet.

Speaking of Research