Animal Law Review

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Animal models are currently the “gold standard” in biomedical research. However, new approaches that do not involve the use of nonhuman animals are evolving to address the public health and medical challenges for which animal models are less well suited. These alternatives represent important advancements and are being recognized as significant advances. There is a clear societal need to encourage such efforts, and there is widespread support to move away from animal-based research by the American public. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funds the majority of biomedical research in the United States and should be a key player in developing new methods. There have been numerous bills introduced before the United States Congress that seek to change the way that NIH allocates its resources, with an emphasis on increasing funding for alternatives. To date, none of these bills have advanced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. This Article examines how NIH could utilize the policy options available under its current laws and regulations to move toward a research environment that puts greater value on alternatives and, at the same time, moves away from animal models as the gold standard. The major advantages of this approach are that it can be implemented without changing current laws and regulations, is relatively straightforward, and can be executed relatively quickly. If adopted, these policy options have the potential to create a much-needed paradigm shift that will improve scientific research while responding to the societal desire to use fewer animals in the biomedical arena.

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