Towards human-relevant models in biomedical research


Towards human-relevant models in biomedical research

18 December 2020
A Joint Research Centre (JRC) study investigates research approaches in Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers to understand why results often fail to translate into clinical practice. Human-relevant models and indicators to monitor innovation and impact of funded research projects are proposed.

Alzheimer’s disease, breast and prostate cancers are among the most prevalent non-communicable diseases in Europe and worldwide.

Over the past 20 years, the European Union has made considerable investment in biomedical research, which has no doubt contributed a great deal to the understanding and treatment of disease. However, the failure rate in drug development still remains very high.

Both animal and cell culture models are used extensively for research on Alzheimer’s disease and cancers of the breast and prostate. However, these models often fail to capture the biological complexity of the diseases and thus hinder scientific progress in the development of drugs that are effective in human patients.

New technological tools and models in life science based on non-animal approaches have emerged in recent years, including those based on patient-derived cells, engineered tissues, organ-on-chip devices, advanced imaging and genomic techniques, and artificial intelligence. The JRC has recently produced a freely available knowledge base of almost 300 advanced non-animal models for respiratory tract diseases and over 900 for breast cancer research.

“Accelerating the uptake of human-relevant models and methods in biomedical research is critical to address key research questions. We need to pave the way for the development of prevention and treatment strategies that are both safe and effective in humans”, says Francesca Pistollato, JRC scientist and lead-author of the report.