How new animal-free approach methods can speed up COVID-19 drug discovery


How new animal-free approach methods can speed up COVID-19 drug discovery

11 June 2020
Researchers from the University of Konstanz and Johns Hopkins University draw attention to the fact that new (animal-free) approach methods (NAM) could help accelerate the discovery and development of COVID-19 drugs and vaccines and advise European Parliament on NAM-based drug development and safety assessment.

NAM could be crucial to speeding up the fight against COVID-19, a team of researchers from the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing – Europe (CAAT-Europe), based at the University of Konstanz, finds. In a new publication in Archives of Toxicology, the researchers argue that harnessing past advances made in the area of NAM technologies could accelerate the development of COVID-19 drugs and vaccines.

The Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing Europe (CAAT-Europe), supported by the Doerenkamp-Zbinden Foundation for animal free research, is heavily involved in ongoing initiatives to promote a wider use of existing NAM. The new editorial published in Archives of Toxicology comes out of CAAT-Europeʼs scientific consulting activities for the European Parliament. In April 2020, the advice provided by CAAT-Europe researchers informed a joint letter by 18 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Commission (EC) directorates of Innovation and Research and Health and Food Safety. In this letter, the MEPs sought to encourage a wider use of NAM – such as high-throughput screening methods, organoids, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and others – to speed up the development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatment.

"We are very pleased that both EMA and EC commissioners have responded positively, expressing their commitment to advancing research in this direction and to exploring the use of NAMs for drug development and safety assessment", says Marcel Leist.

Through these activities, CAAT-Europe has helped to set up a workshop chaired by the European Parliamentary Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals, where Professor Thomas Hartung participated as part of the speakersʼ panel, together with representatives from the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI, a European initiative in the field of pharmaceutical research).