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  1. Good Science Digest

  2. Dec 11, 2023

Physicians Committee Weighs In on Important NIH Strategic Plan: Steer Clear of Animals to Focus on Human Health

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The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) sought input on its 2024-2029 Strategic Plan, and the Physicians Committee responded with a formal comment earlier this month.

Each NIH institute and center (IC) is required by Congress to prepare a periodic strategic plan that provides an overview of the scientific strategy and research priorities. NIH strategic planning provides important opportunities for us to offer our expert feedback on ways to advance nonanimal methods in medical research.

In the comment, the Physicians Committee suggested various goals to improve efficiency of the drug development pipeline and to reduce biomedical reliance on animals by increasing use of nonanimal methods. The Physicians Committee suggested that the agency establish an NIH-wide strategic plan for nonanimal methods, coordinated in part by NCATS, to help the priority setting of infrastructure, programmatic, and training initiatives needed across experimental platforms, tissue types, and disease models. Other goals included in the comment focused on the need for human diversity in research projects and the importance of investigating systemic resistance to the use of nonanimal methods. To accompany each goal, the Physicians Committee’s comment also included suggestions on how to assess progress. The comment concludes with a suggestion that NCATS continue its commitment to public engagement and accountability by making as many metrics of progress, success, and impact publicly available as possible.

NCATS may be the most advanced NIH IC in terms of the development and use of nonanimal methods. Because of the Center’s focus on translational research—research that bridges experiments with clinical interventions—NCATS leadership is acutely aware of the disadvantages of animal models in their ability to replicate human biology and clinical responses. 

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