Animal studies are a critical aspect of medical research, both for generating new breakthroughs in experimental research and to ensure maximum safety of new treatments before they are used in human subjects. However, animal use is only permitted at UCB where there is no alternative, either because we need to generate essential information that can only be obtained from the whole body or because it is a regulatory authority legal requirement. UCB acts as a responsible company in the management of animal welfare, and all UCB’s research units involved in animal studies adhere to strict animal welfare standards and policies and promote a Culture of Care. These are regularly reviewed for potential areas for improvement, in line with current best practice and legal requirements.
UCB is committed to the responsible and appropriate use of animals in medical research, and complies with all applicable laws, regulations and industry standards. There are two research sites in UCB (UK and Belgium) that conduct studies with animals and both operate in full compliance with EU directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. UCB also ensures that any work conducted externally on its behalf is performed preferably by AAALAC accredited service providers or at a minimum, conducted in compliance with local animal welfare legislation and with UCB’s guidelines for animal welfare. UCB will not place animal studies in institutions where the animal welfare standards are considered inadequate.
UCB is also committed to the 3Rs principles in animal testing (replacement of animals in research with non-animal alternatives, reduction of the number of animals required to achieve scientifically robust results and refinement of procedures to minimize suffering) and continually monitors for opportunities for improvement in this area. UCB is actively involved with NC3Rs (U.K. National Council for Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research), for example by co-funding a program manager to oversee several 3Rs based projects in the pharmaceutical field and by membership of various NC3Rs working groups. UCB is also involved in international working groups involved either directly or indirectly in the 3Rs.
The two UCB research sites that conduct animal studies also have local Animal Welfare and Ethics Committees that carefully consider whether the use of animals for particular research activities is necessary and justified, whether an appropriate animal alternative exists and should be used instead and whether any potential suffering has been adequately minimized. They also act to promote the 3Rs and ensure compliance with the highest standards of welfare and care, as well as reviewing and endorsing all newly proposed internal project licenses involving animals at their site, prior to formal submission to local government agencies for approval (in UK).
Personnel involved with the care and use of animals must be educated, trained, and qualified in the principles of animal welfare and legal requirements on animal use to help ensure quality science and high standards of animal well-being. Continued education and regular competency checks are also organized to maintain state-of-the-art laboratory animal care and use.
In addition to EU directive 2010/63/EU, the research site in Slough (U.K.) is in full compliance with the U.K. Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. The Home Office’s Animals in Science Regulation Unit regularly visits the site, often unannounced, to ensure that high animal welfare standards are maintained.
UCB is also one of over 100 companies who has signed the U.K. Concordat on Openness on Animal Research. Signatory companies commit to ensuring that members of the public have accurate and up-to-date information about what animal research involves and the role it plays in the overall process of scientific discovery and treatment development, how such research is regulated in the U.K., and how researchers and animal care staff promote animal care and welfare, reduce animal usage and minimize suffering and harm to the animals.
In addition to EU directive 2010/63/EU compliance, the Belgian research site in Braine-l’Alleud (Belgium) is accredited since 2014 by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (https://www.aaalac.org). This private non-profit association promotes the responsible treatment of laboratory animals through voluntary accreditation and assessment programs, and AAALAC accreditation represents a label of quality and of high professionalism in terms of animal care and use. AAALAC accreditation also fosters continuous improvement of scientific excellence in animal experimentation and research.
As in the U.K., UCB signed the Belgian Transparency Agreement on Animal Research. The 18 signatories to this Agreement want people to be able to access a comprehensive body of information about animal research so that they can debate the issues from a position of knowledge and understanding of the facts and make up their own minds about animal research.
Animals used for research in 2021
During 2021, UCB used a total of 10,274 animals both at our own research sites and at external contract research organizations or academic partners. With its continued commitment to the progressive implementation of innovative in silico and in vitro technologies, UCB continues to take every opportunity to decrease the number of animals used in research studies.
A total of 97.8 % of all animals used by UCB researchers and contractors are rodents, with non-human primates, dogs, guinea-pigs, rabbits and cows accounting for the remaining 2.2%.