Learning from COVID-19 research

In 2020, the Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality asked the Netherlands National Committee for the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (NCad) to investigate whether COVID-19 research was accelerating the transition to animal-free innovations (TPI). On 3 May, the NCad published an interim report entitled ‘Learning from COVID-19’ with preliminary findings. This is based on literature research and discussions with experts. Methods without the use of laboratory animals played a limited role in the COVID-19 research. Under time pressure to develop a vaccine quickly, known research models (mainly animal models) were used. In addition, the use of animal-free innovations was difficult, as the immune system cannot yet be properly assessed in animal-free models. In the follow-up phase of the advisory report, an important point of attention is whether laboratory research can be shortened and improved in quality through the use of methods without laboratory animals.