Malaria is one of the three deadliest infectious diseases in the world and the leading cause of death among African children younger than five. Thankfully, a safe and effective vaccine, developed by research with animal models conducted through public-private partnerships involving the National Institutes of Health and multinational healthcare companies, has succeeded in clinical trials this year.
This represents merely one frontier in medical science where tremendous progress has been made through animal research. Breakthroughs from the germ theory of disease to the polio vaccine to the 25 most prescribed medications in America have all relied on research with the animal model. The same goes for the numerous therapies and treatments on the horizon for conditions like HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
Each year, Nobel Prizes in medicine are awarded to researchers working with laboratory animals. As NIH Director Francis Collins said, “There are things we can learn from animal studies that will help people with terrible diseases that we otherwise can’t quite learn … animals are still crucial to our understanding of how biology works.”
As the efficacy of other methods improve with technology, some new types of testing will allow researchers to move away from the animal model. For the time being, however, ethical and responsible research with animals remains vital for medical discoveries that lead to lifesaving treatments for the costliest and deadliest chronic illnesses and infectious diseases.
Additionally, NIH research funding supports 350,000 jobs and produced $60 billion in new economic activity in 2015. This work positions the United States as a global leader in science and technology, and reflects the values of American citizens — 91 percent of whom say it’s important to develop better medications, and 81 percent of whom say available medicines have improved their quality of life (per a Research!America poll).
Our nation’s investment in medical science pays dividends that far exceed efforts to save money by cutting NIH funding. Each of the major chronic diseases that plague Americans, such as type 2 diabetes, exacts a multi-billion dollar toll on American taxpayers each year, adding to U.S. healthcare challenges. Despite claims by animal rights groups, animal research remains a crucial part of the process to improve the global healthcare landscape by clearing a pathway to prevent and better treat costly, deadly diseases.
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