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Animal-Free Antibodies

Working toward more reliable and reproducible research to improve human health

The Physicians Committee is working to develop highly reproducible and reliable, animal-free antibodies for scientific research and to encourage scientists to replace the use of animal-derived antibodies with these humane alternatives. 

Research antibodies are crucial tools for research. Helping to develop and improve methods for diagnosing disease, therapies, and regulating industry, they are used in every medical research laboratory across the country. More specifically, antibodies are molecules that specifically bind to antigens, which are unique proteins on foreign objects that stimulate the immune system to produce the antibodies. The development and production of research antibodies uses hundreds of thousands of animals per year, despite the availability of alternatives.

To generate animal-derived antibodies, animals are repeatedly injected with a substance that stimulates their immune system to produce specific antibodies. The animals are used as living incubators and often suffer from harmful side effects as a result of these injections. Once the appropriate level of antibody has been reached, a significant quantity of blood is removed from the animal and the animal is either killed or is subjected to the process once again.

Unlike animal-derived antibodies, nonanimal-derived antibodies are highly reproducible, as the DNA sequence is well-defined and can be exactly replicated. They can deliver more reliable binding than animal-derived antibodies and can be easily produced in large volume over a shorter time period. These animal-free reagents can increase the reliability and reproducibility of research and testing, leading to improved scientific outcomes. In fact, it is estimated that $800 million is wasted annually worldwide on unreliable antibodies, $350 million of that in the U.S. 

Our Policy Work 

The Physicians Committee is working with federal agencies to modernize the way antibodies are produced. By engaging with Congress, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the scientific community, we will modernize antibody standards through the implementation of our recommendations outlined below. 

  • Review the scientific validity of antibodies used in NIH-funded research; 
  • Update the National Research Council’s 1999 report on monoclonal antibody production to recommend the use of nonanimal production methods;
  • Adopt a policy to immediately stop funding the development and use of ascites-derived antibodies;
  • Develop and implement a roadmap to move all research, regardless of funding source, away from animal-derived antibodies;
  • Allocate funding to antibody producers who have been dedicated to nonanimal-derived antibody production and those that commit to switch to nonanimal methods; and
  • Produce a library of synthesized antibodies and make them publicly available to researchers.

Our Laboratory Work

The Physicians Committee is collaborating with fellow scientists to generate two highly specific, high-affinity, fully in vitro antibodies. We are demonstrating that it is feasible to develop antibodies and conduct common research protocols completely animal-free. The team has developed a monoclonal DDK and polyclonal pERK that are currently being assessed for common antibody applications. These antibodies are widely used in a broad spectrum of research areas, including neuroscience, cardiovascular, cancer, and diabetes, and extending to all other fields of medical research. Once testing has concluded, these in vitro antibodies will be shared with researchers and companies for use in their labs. 

Additional Resources