Non-animal models a strategy for maturing Australia’s medical product development capabilities

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CSIRO, in collaboration with government, research and industry partners has released a report setting out Australia’s potential journey towards strategically enhancing capability on medical product development through the use of non-animal disease models. Phenomics Australia sponsored and co-steered, and its partner scientists informed the development of this timely strategy.

The report, Non-animal models: A strategy for maturing Australia’s medical product development capabilities, assesses the potential of emerging non-animal models to complement advanced animal models over the next 15 years.

Highlighting Australia’s strengths and aligning them with global needs, the report emphasises four key opportunities:

    1. Complex in vitro models for drug discovery
    2. Organ-specific models for preclinical development
    3. Personalized models for trial participant and clinical treatment selection
    4. Onshore production of model components

Implementation of the 10 recommendations will strategically advance Australia’s national non-animal model ecosystem.

Australia possesses key foundational capabilities, including existing infrastructure, the National Collaborative  Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), high throughput screening capabilities, and internationally recognised capacity for induced pluripotent stem cell generation, a key input for non-animal model development. These emerging models will also be critical to protect and further strengthen Australia’s $1.4 billion clinical trials sector.

The most significant growth is likely to come from complex in vitro models such as organoids (3D) (estimated $1.28 billion in revenue for Australia by 2040) and organ-on-chip (OoC) technologies ($310 million in revenue). In silico models are also anticipated to be more widely applied throughout the development process; used in conjunction with in vitro models to complement and validate findings.

The recommendations have the potential to extend beyond the medical product development process and benefit growth opportunities in other fields, such as veterinary and agricultural medicines, cosmetics testing, industrial chemicals, and eco-toxicology.

Phenomics Australia CEO Prof Michael Dobbie said: 

“The use of animals in medical research will continue to be a critical key part of the medical product development process for the foreseeable future” 

“NAMs and animal model systems are complementary approaches and tools”

“The complementarity of increasingly sophisticated non-animal models supports the broader global “3Rs” objectives to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals for research and testing purposes, especially where animal model use is challenging. This aligns with Phenomics Australia’s commitment to the 3R’s, strategy, and substantial and ongoing commitment to invest in developing and delivering these complementary technologies.”

“No single model is sufficiently predictive at this stage. Therefore, a range of models, including animals, are necessary depending on the research question or the translational need. We will continue to enhance the complimentary use of a range of models needed for advancing medical research.”

“We particularly endorse the recommendation to lever established NCRIS platforms, including the NCRIS Health Group, to underpin the infrastructure needs of an extended coordinated pipeline for non-animal model production and use.”

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