24 June 2020
Humane Society International and the Humane Society of United States have supported a fast-track research grant for non-animal approaches to investigate mechanisms, medicines and vaccines for the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The organizations believe that understanding the biological mechanisms that make humans especially susceptible to COVID-19 is urgently needed to inform the development and evaluation of effective countermeasures.
Laboratory investigations of human disease often attempt to artificially reproduce a condition in animals. Since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, a flood of studies have described infecting mice, hamsters, ferrets, monkeys and other animals with COVID-19. Yet most report that the animals used were either immune to the new virus, or manifested symptoms that differ substantially from the human condition, including in the most severe clinical outcomes. In addition, the animal-based approach is limited in its ability to predict the impact of comorbidities— the presence of two chronic diseases—in COVID-19 patients, or how the various treatments could impact or worsen the infection.
“We have great faith in the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing as a source of funding for research with the potential to spare humans, as well as animals in laboratories, from suffering caused by COVID-19,” says Kitty Block, president and CEO of HSUS and CEO of HSI.
The two organizations’ donation of $20,000 to the CAAT grant program aims to stimulate innovative and inherently human-relevant solutions for COVID-19. Models based on human biology—from cell and tissue cultures to complex organoids, organs-on-a-chip and computational tools—can help scientists understand the mechanisms of disease progression and rapidly identify interventions that are effective and safe in a human biological environment.
The groups previously released a multi-pronged policy plan for preventing another global health crisis like COVID-19.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts and comments below.