Animal testing continues to be performed for a variety of regulatory and safety reasons. The term is used to describe any procedure performed on live animals for research purposes into basic biology, chemical reaction or toxicity. This can be for medicines, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, pesticides and industrial ingredients, food ingredients, cosmetic, household and beauty products, chemicals ingredients under the EU REACH Directive and Ballistics testing.
The UK has among the most rigorous animal research regulatory regimes in the world, being the first to ban the use of tests on Great Apes in 1986 and for cosmetic and beauty products in 1998. It is illegal in the UK to perform a test using an animal where alternatives are available and where the benefits must outweigh any suffering. Licenses can only be grated for medical, veterinary, scientific or environmental research. Larger animals (dogs, cats, horses etc.) have special protection. Testing itself is investible – Charles River Laboratories is a global leader in outsourced animal tests. Around a quarter of procedures were carried out by commercial enterprises, with the majority conducted by universities and licensed centres.
In the UK in 2018, 3.5m procedures using 3.4m animals were carried out. Live animal experimentation is now at an historic low in the UK with over half of procedures counted as basic research (56%) e.g. oncology and the nervous system. 86% of all procedures used mice, fish and rats; 1% required ‘protected’ species such as horses. Half of all procedures now count as breeding and genetic modification related. 7% of procedures were rated ‘severe’ with death being the immediate consequence. In 2018 just 397 procedures related to industrial chemicals testing such as on household bleaches and astringents.
Case Study – Novo Nordisk
Novo Nordisk is a Danish pharmaceutical company founded in the 1920s. It is a global leader in insulin with key efficacies in Type I & II diabetes. It serves nearly 30m patients a year via its insulin pens and needles which are marketed in 170 countries.
The company is a leader in transparent disclosure and provides very granular detail on animal testing. Whilst it is committed to the ‘reduce, refine and replace’ discipline and has very high animal welfare standards, clinical trials mandate animal testing. Novo Nordisk performs 80% of animal experiments in-house, with 20% provided by external parties. The company has actively sought to eliminate obsolete in vivo tests in drug release testing and by 2011 the last in vivo tests were conducted relating to ‘quality control’ for approved products.
The 3Rs – Replacement, Reduction and Refinement – provide a global best practice framework for humane animal research, and have been embedded in national and international approaches to the use of live animals in experiments. However, non-essential tests that have been outlawed in Europe remain a requirement in China (and elsewhere) which presents obstacles for the responsible investor in terms of the personal care and consumer goods segments, where products are required to be tested on animals prior to their being licensed for sale in country.
REPLACE – avoid or replace the use of animals in experiments
REDUCE – minimise the number of animals used per experiment
REFINE – minimise suffering and improve welfare
What is EdenTree’s Approach?
Animal testing is an Ethical screen in our Amity Funds with a policy adopted in 2010. The Funds will avoid investing where companies apply animal testing for cosmetic, personal care, household goods or industrial manufacturing purposes. This includes soap, cosmetics, detergents, bleaches, paint and other industrial processes.
These Funds will not invest in animal testing services companies such as Charles River Laboratories, but they do allow investment across the medical, pharmaceutical and healthcare sector where animal testing is required as part of clinical trials. The EU REACH Directive of 2006 added exceptional complexity regarding the licensing of chemical compounds and ingredients. We refined the Funds’ Policy in 2018 to allow investment where testing had subsequently been required solely to meet REACH regulatory requirements. The Policy does not extend to the retail of products but does exclude well known consumer goods companies such as Reckitt Benckiser and Unilever. The Policy is available on request.
This is a specialist area of science-related investment. On a case by case basis we seek opportunity in selective areas such as genetics that use animals predicated on high welfare and non-invasive technologies. On the whole these specialist areas focused, for instance, on selected breeding or enzyme extraction use animals that are able to live contented and comfortable lives and are well treated owing to their ‘high value’ status. EdenTree has exposure to two in particular:
Case study - Genus
Genus is a world leading UK based animal genetics company that selectively breeds bovine and porcine herds to produce high quality meat and milk.
Animal DNA is analysed to look for markers linked to desirable characteristics so that those with the strongest genetic profile are used for breeding in a continuous cycle. Distribution is by way of breeding animals, semen or embryos. Genus ABS manages wholly owned bovine studs in 20 countries with 1,800 head of cattle in various stages of ‘product development’. Genus PIC is its porcine business providing genetically superior breeding pigs; more than 120m slaughter pigs contain PIC genetics.
Case study - Bioventix
Bioventix manufactures and supplies high affinity sheep monoclonal antibodies (SMAs). The technology secretes sheep monoclonal antibodies for use in immunodiagnostics.
SMAs are manufactured in laboratory conditions by fermentation of the cell lines and address genetic shortcomings in other antibodies where Bioventix SMAs target and where conventional antibodies fail to produce a suitable reagent. Sheep-based antibodies are then used on automated blood-testing machines globally. Therapeutic applications include thyroid, cardiac, fertility, oncology and Vitamin D deficiency. The business proposition is based on sheep making better antibodies than mice! A successful business has been built on selling just 10g of purified physical antibody per annum extracted from 50 sheep at 6-12 months, kept in an open field. Welfare standards are high.