The Academy of Medical Sciences has published the report of a working group study on ‘animals containing human material (ACHM)’ today. The report was prepared by a working group, chaired by Professor Martin Bobrow CBE FRS FMedSci. The working group of experts included Prof. Robin Lovell-Badge (NIMR-MRC, UK), member of the International Society for Transgenic Technologies (ISTT). The Academy of Medical Sciences promotes advances in medical science and campaigns to ensure these are translated into healthcare benefits for society. The report examines the use of ACHM from scientific, social, ethical, safety and regulatory perspectives, and highlights how ACHM are used both in investigational research, and in the development and production of therapeutics. The study was informed by open call for evidence, expert evidence, and a commissioned public dialogue.
The report concludes that the majority of ACHM research does not pose ethical or regulatory difficulties, but identifies 3 areas that will need careful oversight in future:
- Modification of an animal’s brain which might lead to human-like cognition;
- Changing an animal so it has human appearance or characteristics (e.g. skin, facial or limb features, speech); and the
- Development of human-derived sperm or eggs in an animal (especially if fertilisation may occur).
It recommendations include:
- That the Home Office puts in place an expert oversight body, within the current system of animal research regulation, to oversee the most sensitive types of ACHM research.
- Close alignment of several regulatory bodies that oversee aspects of ACHM research (particularly the Home Office and HFEA).
- Raising international awareness of ACHM, promoting international consistency in research practice, and the development of international standards and guidance.
These recommendations should ensure that valuable and justifiable ACHM research can proceed within a robust, proportionate regulatory system, which is capable of responding to developing scientific knowledge and social attitudes, and which avoids undue bureaucracy and duplication of regulation.
The study was supported by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ Sciencewise-ERC programme, the Department of Health, Medical Research Council, and Wellcome Trust. A report synopsis has been prepared by Dr Geoff Watts FMedSci.
Further information is available on The Academy of Medical Sciences website