The welfare of all the animals we use continues to be a top priority. Our minimum baseline is compliance with relevant external laws and regulations, and consistency with the principles of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals – the internationally respected good-practice guideline for this area. Wherever possible we prefer to use facilities accredited by AAALAC International. AAALAC accreditation is an independently validated “quality mark” that these standards are being met.
The requirements of our Policy and standards apply across all our internal animal research and to research conducted on our behalf by contract research organisations (CROs) worldwide. These requirements include ensuring everyone working with laboratory animals is trained and competent in their allocated responsibilities. We routinely have inspections by government authorities of our internal facilities.
We support the introduction of new legislation across European Union member states which have created minimum standards regarding the use of laboratory animals. We actively contributed to discussions to ensure that the EU Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, adopted in 2010, strikes a balance between improving animal welfare and maintaining the ability to conduct R&D in Europe that brings benefit for patients. The Directive has been transposed into national legislation in almost all member states, and is fully transposed in UK and Sweden where our European R&D sites are based. We continue to contribute to discussions on the practical implications of Directive transposition in territories where we operate.
Do you use external organisations for any of your research?
Yes. Whilst most of our animal research is undertaken at our own facilities, we do outsource a proportion of it to CROs when additional capacity and/or specialised expertise is needed. We contractually require these organisations to comply with our Bioethics Policy and standards of animal care, and we undertake a range of due diligence activities to make sure that our expectations are being met.
Do you use non-human primates?
Yes, but only in circumstances where no other species or non-animal methods can provide the safety or clinical benefit information that we are looking for and where the outcomes of the study are likely to bring sufficiently significant advances in the development of new medicines.
Our biologics research includes the development of monoclonal antibodies targeted at important areas such as cancer and respiratory disease. Monoclonal antibodies are highly specific to human physiology, so primates are in most cases the only relevant animal model because of their similarity to humans. Primates currently represent significantly less than 1% of our total animal use.
We do not currently conduct or outsource work using wild caught primates or great ape species. In the rare case where there is no credible alternative model and where a substantial medical need exists, exceptions may be considered. However, this will require rigorous secondary ethical and scientific review – in addition to our normal review processes – to challenge the need for the study and the scientific design of the work programme. Approval to proceed would be made at Board level.