The life of a new medicinal product or a diagnostic agent to identify and determine a disease begins with basic biomedical research. This work seeks to find the mechanisms underlying diseases at the level of cells, cell components or even individual molecules. Research draws on a wide spectrum of modern methods in this work, among them animal models. These are used to follow the biological processes that take place in humans and to understand diseases.
A good example is our knowledge of bacterial infections and other inflammations; today we understand that they are one of the factors that play a major role in the ageing of the body and the development of cancer. This type of inflammation is always associated with complex interactions between different cell types in the blood and the organs. This dynamic process cannot be studied in a cell culture or micro-structures that are similar to organs. For this purpose, research – even research involving state-of-the-art technologies – relies on the use of animals.
There can be no question that animal studies are only used where they are absolutely necessary from a scientific, ethical and regulatory standpoint and cannot be replaced by alternative methods. The search for suitable substances for new medicines is a process that generally takes several years and is made up of hundreds of individual steps. A large number of substances is investigated for the presence of properties that are needed to make active ingredients. Computerised processes are extremely helpful in this endeavour and are already replacing a substantial number of animal studies.