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Research Prizes

ECEAE awards two prizes for non-animal antibodies

Twice 10,000 euros for the exemplary use of animal-free antibodies

Up to a million animals are used and killed for antibody production in the EU each year, although there are better non-animal methods. In order to raise awareness about their advantages and promote their use, the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments (ECEAE), an umbrella organization of which Doctors Against Animal Experiments is a member, has awarded a unique prize for the development and exemplary use of animal-free antibodies. The prize was granted to scientists from Germany and Switzerland at the award ceremony that took place on March 30, 2022 in Brussels.

Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system that recognize foreign bodies and pathogens that have entered the body, bind to them, and aid their elimination. Antibodies are very often used in research, diagnostics, therapy and regulatory tests. Although modern and precise animal-free methods for antibody generation, e.g. by phage display, have been available for decades, the vast majority of antibodies for research purposes are still produced in animals, resulting in immense animal suffering and the death of countless animals.

For example, to generate monoclonal antibodies, mice are injected with certain cells using the so-called “ascites method”. This leads to tumor-like growth, inflammation, and secretion of an antibody-containing fluid into the animal's abdominal cavity (ascites), which is tremendously painful and distressing for the mice. So-called polyclonal antibodies are often produced in animals such as rats, rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs, but also in large animals such as sheep, goats, donkeys and horses. It is estimated that one million animals are used for the development and production of antibodies each year in the EU alone (1).

In 2020, the EU Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EURL ECVAM) published a "Recommendation on non-animal antibodies", stating that „there is a solid body of evidence demonstrating that there are no general or systematic disadvantages of non-animal-derived antibodies with respect to properties such as affinity, stability/shelf life, and specificity.” (2). The recommendation concludes that animals should no longer be used for the development and production of antibodies and that EU member states should no longer authorize these procedures.

In order to raise awareness about the advantages of animal-free antibodies and to promote their development and application, the ECEAE has awarded a worldwide unique prize for animal-free antibodies of 10,000 euros. The aim was to highlight the versatility and advantages of animal-free antibodies and to promote their acceptance and use for research and therapeutic purposes.

On March 30, 2022, the ECEAE awarded two equivalent prizes of 10,000 euros each to two winners: the biotechnological company Abcalis from Braunschweig, represented by Dr. Esther Wenzel, and Prof. Dr. Pierre Cosson from the Geneva Antibody Facility, Switzerland. The internationally attended award ceremony took place in Brussels, in the immediate vicinity of the EU Parliament and the EU Commission. 

Abcalis GmbH from Braunschweig, Germany, is one of the pioneers in animal-free antibody production using modern phage display technology. The company's projects aim to replace the largest group of animal-derived antibodies with better, cheaper, vegan "multiclonal" antibodies.

Prof. Dr. Pierre Cosson from the Geneva Antibody Facility at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, received the prize for the open access ABCD database listing thousands of recombinant non-animal antibodies that are made available to all interested researchers. Dr Cosson and his colleagues also founded the scientific journal Antibody Reports.


The prize winners Pierre Cosson and Esther Wenzel.


From left: Jen Hochmuth (ECEAE/Animal Rights), Dilyana Filipova (ECEAE/DAAE), Tilly Metz (MEP), the prize winners Pierre Cosson and Esther Wenzel, Corina Gericke (ECEAE/DAAE), Tamara Zietek (ECEAE/DAAE), Jordi Gispert Giron (ECEAE/ADDA).


The ECEAE prize for non-animal antibodies.

Photos free to use, with source: Joffrey Legon, Animal Rights

References

  1. EU Science Hub - European Commission: Better antibodies without using animals. 5.2020
  2. Viegas Barroso JF et al. EURL ECVAM recommendation on non-animal-derived antibodies.Publications Office of the European Union, 2020