PETA Science Consortium Funds Non-Animal Antitoxin Research

German University Will Lead Research Effort to Develop Non-Animal Antitoxin

For Immediate Release:
November 23, 2016

Tasgola Bruner 202-483-7382


The PETA International Science Consortium is funding ground-breaking research that will spare thousands of horses who are currently being forced to produce antitoxins for diphtheria, a serious illness that can cause difficulty breathing and severe damage to the kidneys, nervous system, and heart.

In addition to addressing the ethical concerns of producing antitoxins in horses, the development of this and other recombinant human antitoxins is critical to avoiding the serum sickness that horse-derived antitoxins can cause in humans, as well as to mitigating the global shortage of diphtheria antitoxin.

The Consortium is providing €134,000 to the Institute of Biochemistry, Biotechnology, and Bioinformatics at the Technische Universität Braunschweig in Germany based on lead researcher Prof Michael Hust’s expertise in the development of human antitoxins.

Each year, thousands of horses are used as living factories to produce antitoxins. These antitoxins are isolated from horses’ blood after repeatedly injecting them with toxins, such as diphtheria toxin. Many of these horses are kept on farms in India, where recent inspections uncovered rampant negligence and inadequate veterinary care.

Horses showed signs of lameness, anaemia, diseased hooves, eye abnormalities, and poor nutrition. Seriously ill and elderly horses were kept in close contact with other animals and left to die without the option of euthanasia. Antitoxins made from the blood of horses on these farms are exported and used worldwide.

This research will lead to the development of recombinant human antibodies that can block the illness-causing diphtheria toxin and also be produced in the laboratory without horses.

“This project is a much-needed step towards replacing the use of animals with non-animal technologies that can produce safer and more effective human medicines,” says molecular biologist and Consortium Associate Director Dr Amy Clippinger. Prof Stefan Dübel, head of the Biotechnology Department, adds, “We are not only happy that we can help to tackle a serious health problem, but also that our long-standing commitment to develop a method which makes animal experiments obsolete for antibody generation is now rewarded by international recognition.”

About the PETA International Science Consortium Ltd: The Consortium was established in 2012 to coordinate the scientific and regulatory expertise of its members – PETA UK, PETA US, PETA France, PETA Germany, PETA India, PETA Netherlands, PETA Asia, and PETA Australia. The Consortium works to fund and accelerate the development, validation, and global implementation of alternatives to testing on animals.

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