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3R-INFO-BULLETIN 10 - August 1997

10 years Foundation Research 3R

To celebrate its 10th Anniversary, the Foundation is presenting some of its past activities and its future commitments.

Research activities and funding since 1987

Over its first ten years, the Foundation has awarded grants to some 60 projects that promote the principles of 3 R. To date about SFr. 8'900'000 has been allocated for projects addressing replacement, refinement and improvement in animal experimentation. Funding was contributed equally by Interpharma Switzerland and the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office.

3 R funding milestones in Switzerland

Before launching the Foundation Research 3R in 1987 there were several initiatives to institutionalize the 3 R idea in Switzerland: in 1976 the "Fonds für versuchstierfreie Forschung", FFVFF, was founded. In 1982 the Federal Council commissioned the Swiss National Science Foundation to establish a National Research Program "Alternativen zum Tierversuch" (NRP 17). In 1986 a working group of the Swiss Parliament started a survey of Swiss universities, industry and governmental organisations to evaluate the need for a 3 R institution. Through the joint efforts of the Swiss parliamentary working group on animal experimentation, Interpharma Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office and the FFVFF our Foundation came into being in 1987.

Anniversary media conference on 27th August

Ten years following its inception, the Foundation is hosting an Anniversary Media conference on August 27th 1997, at the Insel Hospital of the University of Berne. The event is entitled, "The 3 Rs in the era of transgenic and cloned animals".
For further details please contact the Foundation.

Programme and topics

Welcome and introduction
Wick, H., Chairman Foundation Research 3R:

3 R in Switzerland: 10 years of research funding.

Transgenic animals and the principles of 3 R

Gruber, F., Scientific head of "Fonds für versuchstierfreie Forschung", FFVFF, Zurich:

There is a controversy whether genetically transformed or transgenic animals may be listed as "alternatives" with respect to the 3 Rs. On the positive side, transgenic technology often allows the use of less animals to answer a specific research question. On the other hand, large numbers of animals are required in order to produce the transgenic strains. And when these animals show clinical signs of disease, it is still an open question whether they suffer more or less than their "pretransgenic" counterparts. To what extent transgenic animals further the cause of the 3 Rs must be evaluated on an individual basis.

What good are alternatives that remain unused?

Mertens, C., Biologist, Animal Welfare Organisation Zurich "Zürcher Tierschutz":

Many countries fund research on alternatives and in some countries - such as Switzerland - their implementations has been legislated. But alternatives to in vivo animal experiments are not yet used enough. The relevant national and international authorities should get more involved: e.g. forbid obsolete methods of animal experimentation or require by law the use of valid alternatives using existing 3 R possibilities.

3 R and the declining number of animal experiments in industry

Schweizer, A., Animal Welfare Officer, Novartis:
The number of experimental animals used during the past 15 years has decreased by over 80 per cent in the pharmaceutical companies of Interpharma Switzerland. This decline is mainly due to the rigorous implementation of in vitro methods in the search for new therapeutic drugs: about 95 per cent of newly synthesized substances are never tested in animals. Similarly, less than ten per cent of industry researchers now do animal experiments exclusively. The huge majority use a combination of in vitro and in vivo methods or have switched entirely to alternative methods.

Knock-out animals:
a K.O. for 3 R at the universities?

Stadler, B.M., Immunologist, University of Berne:
The number of animals used at Swiss universities has increased due to the boom in biomedical research. Nevertheless, the concept of the 3 Rs at the universities has taken hold in many areas: there are almost no animal experiments done at the undergraduate and graduate level of university teaching. In academic research, in vitro alternatives are used wherever possible. The production of monoclonal antibodies with bioreactors, a project supported by the Foundation, is an important example hereof.

The role of government in the international implementation of the 3 Rs

Steiger, A., Head of Animal Welfare Division, Swiss Federal Veterinary Office:
In bringing about the goals of 3 R, governments are confronted with sometimes conflicting interests: animal welfare, science, academic freedom, economy, ethics, environmental concerns. A further problem lies in the international harmonization of safety regulations (e.g. OECD, FDA). In this context, the importance of each researcher acting responsibly and ethically cannot be overestimated.