Big boost for transition to animal-free innovation with €124.5 million from National Growth Fund

The National Growth Fund is investing 124.5 million euros in a new national Centre of Animal-free Biomedical Translation. The aim of the centre is to promote safer, more effective and better medical treatments with fewer animals.

Telescope with testline

The Centre of Animal-free Biomedical Translation (Centrum voor Proefdiervrije Biomedische Translatie - CPBT) will accelerate the transition to animal-free biomedical innovations with the contribution of the National Growth Fund (NGF). This will bring economic and societal benefits: better medicines and less animal testing. With funding for 10 years, this investment offers the Netherlands the opportunity to become an international forerunner to the transition to animal-free innovation, one of the ambitions of the Transition to Animal-free Innovation (TPI ) programme.

After an earlier proposal by CPBT submitted in the third round of the National Growth Fund, which resulted in a reservation of €124.5 million, CBPT submitted a revised proposal in January 2024. This proposal has now been positively assessed and the reservation has been converted into an allocation. The growth fund proposal was submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

Safe and affordable medicines with animal-free research

CPBT comes at exactly the right time. Great progress is currently being made in the development of non-animal methods, their assessment and application. Academia, industry, regulators, patient organisations, government and NGOs are increasingly working together to get more accurate and cost-effective medicines. Animal-free innovations are playing an increasing role in this process. The results of these so-called NAMs (new approach methodologies) are often more translatable to humans than animal studies. In most of these biomedical development pathways, it is only during studies with patients that it turns out that animal tests could by no means always accurately predict the therapeutic effect of drugs in humans. This means that many drugs that seemed effective with animal studies are not successful in humans. Globally, these various parties are therefore increasingly committed to animal-free innovation. CPBT is capitalising on this momentum and can place the Netherlands at the forefront worldwide in the development and application of non-animal innovations for drug development.

Piet Adema, outgoing Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality: "The Netherlands is a forerunner in Europe in terms of animal-free innovations. With this, we are making an important contribution to reducing animal testing. Good for the safety and welfare of both humans and animals.

New centre for revolutionary system change

CPBT, together with a large number of national and international parties, will establish a centre to accelerate the development and commercialisation of animal-free innovations. CPBT will initially focus on research into drugs for patients with ALS, cystic fibrosis, osteoarthritis/rheumatism or asthma/COPD. The aim is to implement the developed non-animal methods, tools and expertise together with researchers and companies. The new centre will also provide education, training, advice and support. This will strengthen the acceptance and use of animal-free biomedical innovations. Ultimately, the aim is to deploy this knowledge broadly, for these four research areas and beyond. It will be an integrated national programme that accelerates the transition to animal-free innovation and strengthens the economic competitiveness of the Netherlands.

Erica van Oort, programme manager of the TPI programme office, says: "We are proud to be able to provide this fantastic stimulus to the many initiatives that the TPI partners and the wider Dutch field are taking as part of the transition to animal-free innovations. This centre is an important step towards increased acceptance of animal-free innovations for a multitude of applications. Furthermore, it significantly adds to the TPI ambition: Better prediction without laboratory animals. A unique initiative within Europe, highlighting the Netherlands' ambition to act as a forerunner in the transition to animal-free innovations.

Social and economic impact

Prof Wouter Dhert of the Life Sciences strategic theme at Utrecht University and the UMC Utrecht, as one of the initiators of the CPBT, says: "It is wonderful news that the cabinet has now decided to really invest in this important transition. We have been able to improve our plans because of the committee's advice. There is now even greater substantive involvement of the pharmaceutical industry. Also, health funds are now participating broadly. Moreover, cooperation with regions outside Utrecht has been strengthened. All university medical centres in the Netherlands are now partners. This is a good indication of the broad support for this initiative and for linking economic added value to better translation of biomedical innovation to the patient, with less animal suffering."

Co-initiator Prof Daniela Salvatori of Utrecht University's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine: "There is a lot of interest worldwide in reducing the use of laboratory animals and accelerating innovation. We can take a leading role as a country with our strong Life Sciences & Health sector. We see that legislation in Europe and the United States is going to offer more scope for regulatory market authorization of new drugs for which no animal tests have been conducted. There is a lot going on! We are going to drive that change. Also by preparing our students and professionals with good education and training."

About the Centre for Animal-free Biomedical Translation

The Centre for Probe-Free Biomedical Translation (CPBT) is an initiative of Utrecht University, UMC Utrecht, Utrecht University of Applied Sciences and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). The initiative has a large number of national public and private partners.