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Nearly every medicine, medical device, surgical procedure and therapy we have today has depended on animal testing and research. Animal research is one of the first steps in medical discovery.

“There are diseases in which you vaccinate someone, they get infected with what you are trying to protect them with, and you actually enhance the infection. You can get a good feel for that in animal models,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said during a White House briefing on March 26.

Contrary to the claims of animal rights groups, animal models have been and will continue to be crucial to medical development and public health. 

The FBR team rounded up articles in the news in recent weeks on potential treatments and potential vaccines for the new coronavirus, as well as other COVID-19 developments, and the animal models used to develop them. In addition, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News put together a list (found here) of 60 potential COVID-19 treatments in development.

Animal Research on the Front Lines

April 8: ‘Flow Pharma announces start of pre-clinical efficacy study for FlowVax COVID-19 vaccine,’ Accesswire

“Flow Pharma, Inc., a San Francisco Bay Area biotechnology company developing the FlowVax(TM) peptide vaccine platform technology, today announced that researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) will begin testing Flow Pharma’s FlowVax COVID-19 vaccine candidate by challenging nonhuman primates with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, after the animals are vaccinated this month with FlowVax COVID-19,” a press release said. 

April 7: ‘Engineered virus might be able to block coronavirus infections, mouse study shows,’ American Society of Microbiology

April 7: ‘Army researchers start coronavirus vaccine testing on primates at Maryland’s Fort Detrick,’ Baltimore Sun

April 7: ‘New coronavirus drug shows promise in animal tests,’ Scientific American

April 7: ‘Army begins testing possible coronavirus vaccines on primates at Fort Detrick,’ The Hill

April 6: ‘Promising drug on the horizon for COVID-19,’ NPR

Scientists from Emory University in Atlanta; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, reported promising results after testing the drug EIDD-2801 on mice infected with coronaviruses similar to the one that causes COVID-19. 

April 6: ‘Army researchers begin animal testing of coronavirus vaccine,’ Military.com

April 6: ‘An orally bioavailable broad-spectrum antiviral inhibits SARS-CoV-2 in human airway epithelial cell cultures and multiple coronaviruses in mice,’ Science Translational Medicine

April 6: ‘Coronavirus patients rush to join studies of Gilead drug,’ The Associated Press

“In animal tests against SARS and MERS, diseases caused by similar coronaviruses, the drug helped prevent infection and reduced the severity of symptoms when given early enough in the course of illness,” the AP reported.

April 6: ‘Scientists around the globe pivot their research to SARS-CoV-2,’ The Scientist

BREAKING NEWS: April 6: ‘Tulane University awarded $10.3 million to test therapeutics, vaccines for novel coronavirus,’ Tulane

The Tulane National Primate Research Center in Louisiana will study COVID-19 in three species of nonhuman primates and evaluate potential COVID-19 vaccines and treatments in the nonhuman primate species that most closely mimics the progression of the disease in a human.

April 2: ‘Coronavirus: Australian scientists begin tests of potential vaccines,’ BBC News

The World Health Organization cleared potential coronavirus vaccines for animal testing. Researchers in Australia have inserted vaccine samples into ferrets. “Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) says its tests will be the first comprehensive pre-clinical trials of the vaccines to use an animal model,” the article said.

April 2: ‘Pitt team makes progress on possible COVID-19 vaccine,’ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

April 2: ‘Pittsburgh scientists develop possible coronavirus vaccine, hope FDA can fast-track it,’ Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

April 2: ‘Potential COVID-19 vaccine shows promise in mouse study,’ Reuters

A team at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine is working on a potential COVID-19 vaccine. It’s shown promise during initial tests in mice, scientists said.

April 2: ‘Chinese wildlife ban freezes export of test monkeys amid worldwide push for COVID-19 vaccine,’ The Globe and Mail

April 1: ‘Interview with Johnson & Johnson research head: vaccine development at “turbo speed” – knowledge,’ NewsyList

“We already have a lot of data on the safety of the vaccine candidate, because the necessary preclinical studies in nonhuman primates and animals have already been carried out,” J&J research chief Paul Stoffels said in an interview with the German newspaper Tagesspiegel.

April 1: ‘Texas Biomed receives $3M to expand coronavirus studies,’ Rivard Report

“Researchers will use the funds to amplify efforts to investigate how SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus – affects animals. Previously, research was limited to studying the effects on baboons, but now will include macaques, marmosets, mice, and guinea pigs,” the article said.

April 1: ‘Covid-19 changed how the world does science, together,’ The New York Times

April 1: ‘Georgia pharmaceutical lab working on COVID-19 vaccine, waiting on federal funds,’ WGXA 

BREAKING NEWS: March 31: ‘Testing to begin in metro Atlanta for COVID-19 vaccines,’ 11Alive News

GeoVax is preparing to test three candidate vaccines for the novel coronavirus in animals, CEO David Dodd says. With funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, GeoVax will use animal testing to zero in on the vaccine that is most likely to protect people from COVID-19, then scientists will test the most promising of them in clinical trials later this year.

March 31: ‘Israel tests coronavirus vaccine prototype on rodents at defense lab,’ Reuters

March 31: ‘Should pets be tested for coronavirus?’ Science

Veterinarians don’t have evidence that pets can spread SARS-CoV-2, but they want more information, and several labs have developed veterinary tests. Shelley Rankin, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, says if pets were readily susceptible to the virus, a spike would have been noticed by now, and the USDA and many experts warn against widespread testing of pets for COVID-19.

March 30: ‘Trump administration orders $1.8M in coronavirus research monkeys,’ The Daily Beast

BREAKING NEWS: March 28: ‘Louisiana researchers studying monkeys for a coronavirus vaccine face challenges as state cases spike,’ ABC News

Scientists at the Tulane National Primate Research Center in Louisiana are working hard to fight COVID-19. ABC News gave an inside look at the challenges these researchers are up against.

March 27: ‘The US keeps millions of chickens in secret farms to make flu vaccines. But their eggs won’t work for coronavirus,’ CNN

About 82% of the 174.5 million doses of influenza vaccine distributed across the U.S. this season were produced in chicken eggs, according to the CDC, but the many chickens kept in secure facilities in the U.S. won’t be useful in developing a COVID-19 vaccine. Coronaviruses and influenza viruses have different receptors and other characteristics, and the novel coronavirus can’t replicate inside eggs the way influenza can, says pathology professor John Nicholls.

BREAKING NEWS: March 26: ‘How monoclonal antibodies might prove useful against the coronavirus,’ NPR

Researchers are studying antibodies to find out how to beat COVID-19. “If the antibodies work to protect cells from infection, then researchers will test them in animals exposed to the virus — to see if the proteins prevent the animals from getting sick, or, alternatively, if they can improve the health of animals that are sick with a version of COVID-19,” the report said.

March 25: ‘Pirbright begins testing new coronavirus vaccines on animals to help combat COVID-19,’ The Pirbright Institute

March 24: ‘When might experimental drugs to treat Covid-19 be ready? A forecast,’ STAT

March 24: ‘Idexx Laboratories tested thousands of pets for coronavirus. None have come back positive,’ Today

March 22: ‘Africa’s mountain gorillas also at risk from coronavirus,’ The Associated Press

“We know that gorillas are very sensitive to human diseases,” Paula Kahumbu, chief executive of the Kenya-based conservation group WildlifeDirect, told the AP. “If anyone has a cold or a flu they are not allowed to go and see the gorillas. With coronavirus having such a long time of no symptoms in some cases, it means that we could actually put those gorillas at risk.”

March 21: ‘Second dog tests positive for coronavirus as owners warned not to abandon pets,’ MarketWatch

March 20: ‘COVID-19: U of S lab develops animal model for COVID vaccine testing,’ The StarPhoenix

“The University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) is the first Canadian lab to develop an animal model for COVID-19 vaccine testing,” the article said.

March 19: ‘Chloroquine, an old malaria drug, may help treat novel coronavirus, doctors say,’ ABC News

Chloroquine phosphate, an 85-year-old antiviral drug that has previously been used for the treatment of malaria, and its derivative hydroxychloroquine have recently shown promising in-vitro results in primate cells infected with SARS-CoV-2. Chloroquine phosphate became the first-choice antiviral drug for malaria after researchers discovered it drastically reduced mortality in African penguins with avian malaria.

March 19: ‘US primate centers work to protect animals from COVID-19,’ The Scientist

Monkeys are vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2. Primate center scientists are working to prevent colonies from infection.

March 18: ‘Macaque monkeys can’t become reinfected with COVID-19, small study suggests,’ Live Science

March 18: ‘Coronavirus vaccines: five key questions as trials begin,’ Nature

March 18: ‘HIV drug combo fails as treatment for severe COVID-19 in China study,’ Reuters

Extensive studies in a variety of nonhuman primates, including macaques, led to the development of lopinavir and ritonavir as HIV/AIDS combination anti-retroviral drugs. In 2015, researchers discovered that lopinavir and ritonavir improved outcomes in marmoset monkeys infected with the MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Since SARS-COV-2 and MERS-CoV are both coronaviruses and share many similarities, researchers launched a clinical trial of lopinavir and ritonavir in patients with COVID-19 in China.

March 18: ‘Respirators, quarantines, and worst-case scenarios: Lab animal facilities grapple with the pandemic,’ Science

The heads of two animal facilities spoke with the academic journal about how they are dealing with COVID-19.

March 18: ‘Letter: I know lab animals are crucial in finding a COVID-19 vaccine,’ The Mercury News

March 17: ‘Regeneron says potential Covid-19 drugs could start human tests by early summer,’ STAT

Regeneron has developed hundreds of monoclonal antibody drugs that show potential for treating SARS-COV-2. Regeneron’s antibodies are produced in mice that have been genetically modified to have human-like immune systems.

March 17: ‘Singapore startup testing drug used to treat cats in race to find Covid-19 cure,’ Today

March 16: ‘First person injected with trial coronavirus vaccine in Seattle,’ Forbes

Moderna and NIAID are currently investigating a potential messenger RNA vaccine for the new coronavirus. A clinical trial in humans has begun in Seattle for the mRNA-1273 vaccine. Despite reports to the contrary, the clinical trial began after mRNA-1273 was tested in mice.

March 16: ‘Why animal research is essential to tackling Covid-19,’ Spiked

March 16: ‘As the coronavirus spreads, a drug that once raised the world’s hopes is given a second shot,’ STAT

Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir is currently being tested in five human clinical trials for its effectiveness against the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Pre-clinical research in laboratory mice and other animals demonstrated that remdesivir was effective against the MERS and SARS coronaviruses.

March 14: ‘These lab animals will help fight coronavirus,’ The New York Times

Researchers, such as those at The Jackson Laboratory in Maine, are breeding transgenic mice. Experts will test different strains of transgenic mice as well as a variety of other laboratory animals including nonhuman primates to determine which ones are susceptible to infection with the virus.

March 13: ‘Did an experimental drug help a U.S. coronavirus patient?’ Science

Doctors tested remdesivir on a critically ill patient with COVID-19 in California. An infectious disease specialist on the team treating the patient answered questions about the case. In February, Gilead and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) published a paper demonstrating that remdesivir inhibited the replication of the coronavirus MERS in infected monkeys.

March 12: ‘Quarantine the cat? Disinfect the dog? The latest advice about the coronavirus and your pets,’ Science 

March 11: ‘A virus cure depends on rare lab mice, but there aren’t enough,’ Bloomberg Businessweek

“It’s a basic rule of medical research: Before you inject anything into humans, conduct experiments on animals—frequently mice—to determine whether treatments are safe and effective. In the race to develop a vaccine for the new coronavirus, however, your everyday mouse won’t do,” Bloomberg correspondent Bruce Einhorn wrote.

March 11: ‘CSU researchers are working full-bore on the mysteries of coronavirus — and a vaccine,’ Colorado Public Radio News

March 11: ‘As pressure for coronavirus vaccine mounts, scientists debate risks of accelerated testing,’ Reuters 

Reuters reported:

“Given the urgency to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, some drugmakers are moving straight into small-scale human tests, without waiting for the completion of such animal tests.

‘I understand the importance of accelerating timelines for vaccines in general, but from everything I know, this is not the vaccine to be doing it with,’ Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told Reuters.”

March 11: ‘The best hope for coronavirus treatment is an experimental drug that fizzled against Ebola,’ The Washington Post

March 11: ‘Repurposed drugs may help scientists fight the new coronavirus,’ Science News

March 10: ‘How close are biotechs to bringing a COVID-19 treatment to market?’ Benzinga

March 9: ‘LSU School of Veterinary Medicine producing coronavirus vaccines for testing,’ LOCAL 33/FOX 44

Researchers will test potential vaccines in mice.

March 9: ‘Labs rush to study coronavirus in transgenic animals — some are in short supply,’ Nature

March 9: ‘Why a coronavirus vaccine is more than a year away, despite medical researchers’ progress,’ USA Today

Preclinical tests involve research in animals to make sure a vaccine is safe. “If the vaccine protects in animal models, it can be made pure enough to be tested on humans,” Dr. Bart Haynes told USA TODAY.

March 7: ‘Texas baboon troop enlisted in humankind’s war on coronavirus,’ Bloomberg

“Animal research has played a critical role in virtually every medical advance over the last century,” said Matthew R. Bailey, president of the Foundation for Biomedical Research.

March 5: ‘From ferrets to mice and marmosets, labs scramble to find right animals for coronavirus studies,’ STAT

“Every day, it seems another company announces an attempt to make its own virus-fighting vials. But to test an experimental formulation, scientists can’t just jump from Petri dishes into people,” STAT News reporter Eric Boodman wrote. “They need to try it in critters first, to check that the stuff is safe and effective.”

March 3: ‘Could GSK reject benefit COVID-19 patients?’ BioWorld

APN01 is a recombinant human Angiotensin Converting Enzyme produced by APEIRON Biologics that successfully blocked viral spread of SARS-CoV-2 and minimized lung injury when tested in laboratory mice. APN01 is now entering the clinical trial phase with COVID-19 patients in China.

March 2: ‘Opinion: Animal rights groups choose coronavirus over your safety,’ The Detroit News

The Detroit News published an opinion editorial written by FBR’s president on the importance of animal research in the search for a vaccine to control the coronavirus outbreak.

Feb. 17: ‘Live coronavirus samples now at Tulane’s Primate Center on Northshore for research,’ WWL-TV (New Orleans)

The Tulane National Primate Research Center launched a research project to understand COVID-19 with animal models. The researchers are trying to understand how the disease spreads and progresses in nonhuman primates.

Feb. 16: ‘“A completely new culture of doing research.” Coronavirus outbreak changes how scientists communicate,’ Science

Feb. 11: ‘UW–Madison researchers lead efforts to understand, thwart new coronavirus,’ UW–Madison News

“We are working together to develop a plan to build out nonhuman primate models to test medical countermeasures such as vaccines and therapeutics,” said David O’Connor, professor at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. “We want to make sure we are recapitulating the kind of clinical signs (of virus infection) that happen in people.”

Feb. 2: ‘With coronavirus spreading, now is not the time for restrictions on animal research,’ International Business Times


Basic Research

We would like to say a word about the role of research animals in basic research to understand how COVID-19 infects humans and animals. A basic research study in macaque monkeys revealed that monkeys who recovered from COVID-19 developed some immunity to the SARS-COV-2 virus and did not get reinfected with the virus. Further basic research studies will be conducted to confirm these results. Several other teams of researchers are studying how the SARS-COV-2 virus jumped from animals to humans by using data from studies of other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS in bats, civets, pangolins, and camels. Here are a few good articles on basic research to understand the zoonotic transmission of COVID-19 from animals to humans:

March 24: ‘Coronavirus could be a “chimera” of two different viruses, genome analysis suggests,’ Science Alert

March 17: ‘COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic has a natural origin,’ Science Daily

March 16: ‘Which species transmit COVID-19 to humans? We’re still not sure,’ The Scientist


Keep checking this page and social media channels, as well as our weekly SmartBrief, for future updates on animal research in the fight against COVID-19.

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Photo credit: Foundation for Biomedical Research
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What is Animal Research?

Animal research is the study of animals for scientific and medical discovery. Research animals, also called lab animals, are bred specifically for research. Studying lab animals gives researchers important insights into how a disease works in the body. Once they understand how a disease works, they can begin to develop and test treatments with the help of animals.  

What is Animal Testing?

Animal testing is essential for understanding the safety and proper dosages of new medicines and treatments. If researchers find that a drug is safe and effective through animal testing, they can begin testing it in small groups of people and then larger groups of people. Both extensive human and animal testing is required by law before a drug can be approved. 

Why is it necessary?

Nearly every medicine, medical device, surgical procedure or therapy we have today has depended on animal testing and research. It’s one of the first steps in medical discovery. To understand how a disease works in the body, scientists study the disease in animals. Animal research gives them the knowledge they need to discover and create treatments to help both people and animals living with illnesses.

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