Animal experiments and animal welfare at Fraunhofer IZI

Animal experiments

Animal experiments are essential for the advancement of biological and medical research. The knowledge gained from this kind of testing facilitates the development of new drugs and therapies. This gives rise to a classic dilemma, as acquiring knowledge for human good places a burden on animals.

Fraunhofer IZI is committed to developing novel therapies, drugs and diagnostic agents for humans and animals, and draws on animal experiments to help achieve this goal.

It goes without saying that the employees at Fraunhofer IZI would never choose to conduct experiments on animals without good reason.

Alternatives to animal testing will always be favored at Fraunhofer IZI. However, especially when it comes to investigating complicated mechanisms in the biological cycle of an organism, very few alternative methods exist at present. In particular, the complex interactions within the immune system cannot yet be recreated outside the living organism. Animal experiments are still needed here in order to gain medical insights, drive medical advancement, develop new therapies, improve diagnostic procedures and minimize the risk to humans. As per the current state of scientific knowledge, it is therefore not yet possible to dispense with animal experiments in these cases. This is also clearly stated in the German Federal Government’s animal welfare report (“In line with the latest scientific knowledge, animal experiments cannot be completely dispensed with, despite the increased use of alternative methods”). In order to keep the number of experiments as low as possible, every test is preceded by a huge amount of research into available literature and databases, which seeks to clarify whether experiments are already under way at other facilities and can therefore be avoided.

Animal testing is subject to strict approval and control procedures. Every research project that intends to use experimental animals is first reviewed internally before being assessed by the authorities. As part of this assessment, an ethics committee also comprising representatives from animal welfare associations considers the necessity of such experiments and weighs up the medical benefit for humans and animals.

The employees at Fraunhofer IZI work in strict adherence with the German Animal Welfare Act. The animal facility managers and animal welfare officers at Fraunhofer IZI are responsible for complying with the applicable acts and regulations.

All projects involving animal testing at Fraunhofer IZI are conducted in the interests of human and animal welfare and aim to improve medical and veterinary medical care. Animal experiments aimed at developing cosmetics, tobacco, detergents and weapons are prohibited by law and are categorically rejected by Fraunhofer IZI.

Fraunhofer has long been involved in the “Understanding Animal Testing” initiative launched by the German scientific community, which is coordinated by the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany. The initiative provides comprehensive, up-to-date, facts-based information about animal experiments at publicly funded research institutes. “Understanding Animal Testing” offers insights into the necessity of responsible-minded animal experiments and encourages dialog between scientists and the general public. Supported by scientific organizations and professional associations, it provides reliable facts and figures on animal testing and ensures greater all-round transparency on the topic. The Humboldt Foundation, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the German Academic Exchange Service, the German Research Foundation, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Helmholtz Association, the German Rectors’ Conference, the Leibniz Association, the Max Planck Society and the German Council of Science and Humanities are all members of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany.