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The BBC's Sarah Pennells
"Protests could degrade our ability to do research."
 real 56k

Friday, 19 January, 2001, 14:33 GMT
Research industry under threat
Sir Walter Bodmer - a geneticist who has been researching causes of cancer for 20 years
Sir Walter Bodmer, a geneticist, says animal testing is vital to medical research
Animal testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences will soon know whether its 22m loan will be extended or called in by Royal Bank of Scotland.

The company has been under siege from animal activists who want to see it closed down.

But Huntingdon Life Science is just one company that is involved in animal testing.

Research into new medicines accounts for 25% of all research and development in Britain. So what is the future for these companies, in the current climate?

Security fears

At his medical research laboratory in the University of Oxford it is work as usual for Sir Walter Bodmer - a geneticist who has been researching causes of cancer for 20 years.

Bowel cancer cells under the microscope.
Animal research used to develop anti-cancer drugs

Since animal rights activists have been targetting medical research, though, security at his laboratory has increased.

Sir Walter specialises in bowel cancer research - he hopes his work will lead to the development of new drugs.

He says that animal testing is vital to medical research

"There is no one that hasn't benefited from drugs that depend on animal work - the millions of people that use the anti-ulcer drugs, painkillers of one sort or another or have been vaccinated."

Sector threatened

Scientists who work here say that the research that is carried out in labratories up and down the country could not continue without animal testing, and that a whole sector of the industry will suffer if the current action by anti-vivisectionists is successful.

Britain spends 7m a day on research into new medicines.

The industry employs 60,000 people directly, and 250,000 in service industries.

Scientists say that animal testing is only a limited part of the process of the development of new drugs.

But they say that if the current pressure on animal research continues, more could be carried out elsewhere.

While it is unlikely to mean pharmaceutical companies closing and moving away from Britain, over the longer term it could affect where medicines are produced as well as developed.

Scientists working in this field say they are already feeling the impact of the targetting by the animal rights activists, but Britain's research business is too important to risk losing.

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