By Paul James, The Journal
A Newcastle scientist is spearheading a campaign to end medical research on animals.
But Dr Jarrod Bailey is no animal rights activist and his argument is founded entirely on the belief that it simply does not work.
As scientific director of Europeans for Medical Progress, Dr Bailey, 34, said "archaic" animal methods have either harmed humans or set research back by decades.
The group say scientists are not making best use of new technology that would allow the same experiments to take place using human tissue rather than mice or apes.
Following last week's defence of animal testing at Newcastle's Centre for Life by Professor Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council, he said academics are stifling progress as much as the major drugs companies.
Dr Bailey, who lives in Corbridge, Northumberland, and is project development coordinator for the University of Newcastle's School of Population and Health Sciences, was appointed to the group in December.
He said: "We want an end to vivisection because of its lack of relevance to human medicine. There are historic examples, like penicillin, the introduction of which was delayed by 10 years because it was given to a rabbit and didn't work. Even after thalidomide had harmed about 15,000 people, they still struggled to show similar birth defects in animals."
He says research into the likes of cancer, brain diseases and hormone replacement therapy has been held back by a reliance on animal methods. He is now preparing for a series of head-to-head debates with those who defend animal testing, including one later this year with Professor Blakemore.
He said relating results of animal testing to how drugs will affect humans can be as unreliable as guessing the result of a coin toss. "The ethical side is a big dilemma, but that is removed when you present people with the information that animal methods are not useful," he said. "They haven't got us very far at all.
"Colin Blakemore uses examples like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to defend the animal model but never substantiates his claims with any hard science. What we have learned about Alzheimer's and Parkinson's has all been from studying human beings."
After commissioning an independent study that found 82pc of GPs thought animal data can be misleading when applied to humans, Europeans for Medical Progress is now trying to persuade the Government to launch an independent study of how effective animal research has been.
* Anyone who would like to find out more can contact www.safermedicines.org