Policy for research grants

Aiming to improve science by replacing animal experiments

The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments’ goal is to ensure that new and better methods will replace animal testing, while contributing to important scientific advances and improved risk assessment of chemicals, pharmaceuticals and other products. Our mission is to promote the development of new methods and new knowledge in toxicology, medical research, biological production and other areas where animals are being used today.

The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments supports research and other projects aimed at replacing animal experiments. Project assessments focus on the scientific quality as well as the project’s stated goal and likelihood to replace animal use. Applicants must clearly describe how the project will lead to the replacement of animal experiments.

The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments does not support projects aiming at replacing use of warm-blooded animals with animals of a lower phylogenetic order, such as reptiles, crustaceans or insects.

When cell cultures are used, the Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments primarily supports research where human material and / or established cell lines are used, to avoid animals being killed for the purpose (1). The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments does not support projects using early developmental stages (embryos) as a model system, if they involve risks of suffering for the animals (2).

The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments considers it to be important to reduce the use of animal serum. If animal serum is used in cell culture-based projects, it must be justified, and the applicant must specify measures to reduce or eliminate the use of animal serum (3).
Similarly, there are animal welfare concerns when producing monoclonal antibodies using the ascites method (4). The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments encourages researchers to replace in vivo-produced antibodies, whenever possible. If in vivo-produced antibodies or other animal-based products are used, it must be stated and justified in the application.

The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments also supports projects that promote the efficient use of existing alternative methods, such as validation of non-animal methods that can lead to the reduction or complete replacement of animal experiments. Projects to reduce animal use in education and projects designed to spread awareness of alternative methods will be considered for support.

Results from the projects shall be reported to the Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments to be published on the website and in various publications. The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments does not provide funding for research in which the methods used and / or the obtained results are confidential.

Notes:
(1) The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments does not support projects in which cells, tissues or organs from animals are used, if the animals are killed for this purpose. In exceptional cases, such as when it is not possible to use human cells or continuous cell lines as model systems, the Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments supports the use of cells, tissues or organs from animals killed for other purposes, such as using remains from slaughter houses. In these cases, the applicant must carefully justify this use, and state the purpose for which the animals have been killed.
(2) The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments does not give grants to projects where fertilized eggs or embryos from mammals are used. However, projects may be supported if fertilized birds’ eggs are used as long as the experiment is ended by a mid-term between lay and calculated, normal hatching. Fertilized eggs from amphibians and fish can be used if the eggs are naturally released and the experiment is terminated when at least ¼ of the time remain until the expected, normal, hatching.
(3) The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments considers the use of serum to be both an animal welfare problem and a scientific problem. The methods currently used for the collection of fetal calf serum can cause suffering, especially when near-term fetal calves are emptied of blood through cardiac puncture without anesthesia. The use of serum is a scientific problem because the contents of the serum may vary, and to a certain extent it can contain unknown components. Furthermore, the serum may be infected by viruses, mycoplasma, or prions. More information here»
(4) The production of antibodies, particularly the use of in vivo methods for the propagation of monoclonal antibodies, give rise to animal welfare problems. If antibodies are used in a project supported by the Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments, in vitro-produced antibodies should be used whenever possible. More information here»

The policy was first adopted by the board of the Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments May 1997, with the last amendment April 2013.

Background information to the policy

The statutes of the Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments state that the fund is intended to “promote scientific research for the gain of public health and animal health, without the use of animal experiments. It is important that the Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments in its activity promotes development of such knowledge and practices, that the use of laboratory animals in particular for painful experiments, is reduced with the ultimate goal of a complete phase-out the use of in particular painful experiments on animals.”

Definition of animal experiments

The Swedish legislation differs from the EU definition in the way animal experiments are defined. The Swedish definition includes the killing of animals for the use of cells, tissues and organs for scientific research, as well as behavioral studies and feeding studies on animals, considered animal research.

The EU Directive on animal experiments, as well as the European Convention on animal testing, only covers experiments on live animals that are inflicted pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm during the experiments. This means that behavioral studies, feeding studies and the killing of animals to harvest cells, tissues and organs for scientific research, are not defined as animal experiments.

The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments applies the Swedish definition and believes that the killing of animals for the use of cells or organs should be defined as animal experiments.

Definition of alternative / non-animal methods

Alternative methods are often defined according to the “principle of the 3R’s”. The three R’s stand for the English words Replace, Reduce and Refine and the principle means that experiments on live animals as far as possible should be Replaced. When the animal cannot be replaced with other techniques, the experiment should be performed in a way that minimizes suffering (Refine), e.g. through the use of analgesia and anesthesia, better techniques and also through better husbandry and environmental enrichment. The number of animals can be reduced (Reduce) through better design of experiments, healthier / more appropriate experimental animals, better processing of data etc. For many, the term “alternative methods” has become synonymous with the 3R’s.

The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments welcomes the 3R’s as a step towards more humane research, but believes it could be misleading to consider the three R’s as synonymous with the term “alternatives to animal experiments”. This is especially true when it comes to “Refinement” which is not intended to replace or reduce the use of animals.

The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments therefore only considers replacement alternatives to be the true “alternatives to animal experiments”.

Senast uppdaterad: 7 mars 2016