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From:  David Dewhurst University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
In response to: Re Dewhurst & Ward (2014). The Virtual Pharmacology Lab — A repository of free educational resources to support animal-free pharmacology teaching. ATLA 42, P4–P8.
This is NOT free; each CAL package costs £250 for each practical. I am currently looking into replacing my undergrad wet lab practicals that involve a small number of animals per year, with simulated CALs. I cannot find a FREE replacement for such practicals; it would be marvellous if there were such resources and if someone could direct me to them.

About the Virtual Pharmacology Lab (VPL: http:// I think you have misunderstood what the repository is and why it was created. Over the last 25 years, I have worked with physiology and pharmacology colleagues in several universities, to develop a range of computer programs, some of which provide alternatives to practical experiments used in teaching. These programs are described at and, as you point out, sell for £250 each (multiuser educational license). Over the years, one of the frequent comments I receive from users has been that they would like to be able to edit these programs to tailor them to their own teaching needs, by, for example, changing certain drugs, adding new drugs etc. To date, this has not been possible. The VPL is an attempt to give teachers that flexibility. Eleven of the Sheffield BioScience Programs have been disaggregated, and the individual components (learning objects [LOs]) — traces, visuals, text — have been made freely available. Each program, when disaggregated, releases 100–200 LOs. Teachers can use the individual components in any way they wish, adding their own learning objects as necessary. They thus now have two options. They can freely access the LOs from the repository and re-aggregate as they see fit or, if they prefer to use my version of the re-aggregated LOs (i.e. a full CAL package comprising >100 LOs), they can purchase this as described above. The hope is that, as teachers develop their own LOs, they will add these to the repository and make them freely available, too. The PiLAS article is describing the VPL repository and how it was created. I hope this helps to clarify the situation.


From:  Catherine Tiplady

Dr Rosemary Elliott’s excellent article (PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON VETERINARY SCIENCE TRAINING AND THE THREE RS) highlights the long term trauma which some veterinary students/graduates may experience.  It is unacceptable that students are marked on enthusiasm for activities which are extremely upsetting to them and harmful for animals.

There is an urgent need for veterinary educators to consider the human and animal impact of harmful animal use.  Thank you for sharing Dr Elliott’s article with us.


From: Ian Ragan, NC3Rs
In a recent PiLAS there is an article by Christiaan Wittevrongel that contains the following passage:

Not long ago, a discussion erupted on the use of animal models in inflammatory disease research.<sup>5 </sup>Researchers stated that animal models were not at all applicable for use in the development of drugs against, for example, type 1 diabetes.
This is because the immune system in animal models differs too much from that of humans. However, researchers are still obliged to show that drugs do work safely in animals, before clinical trials, which may lead to market access, can be started. Researchers acknowledge that there is a big problem in the development of drugs against conditions such as type 1 diabetes, and drugs have been discovered against type 1 diabetes, based on knowledge of the human biological system. The researchers know that these drugs will not work in animals, but they still have to show efficacy in animals before clinical trials can take place. Therefore these drugs might never be available on the market (Bart Roep, personal communication; Labyrinth Radio, Radio 1, 18 February 2013).

This is totally wrong. Regulatory authorities never ask for studies to be conducted in inappropriate animal models and they will accept a sound scientific rational for not conducting efficacy studies when no relevant animal model exists. It is not necessary to show efficacy in an animal model.

As a board member of the NC3Rs I am very supportive of all efforts to stop the needless use of animals and replace their use with better alternatives. Discussion about the inadequacy of animals models of disease is a very healthy trend and one that is increasingly accepted by all sides. However, you will not win arguments based on spurious claims such as these

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