The shift in research priorities due to COVID-19 has required rapid adjustment across the biomedical sector. The speed and effectiveness of this response supports our current scientific understanding of the virus, and will eventually lead to the delivery of symptomatic treatments and preventative vaccines.
In particular, animal research is critical in the global search for a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. Rodent models are advancing our understanding of the virus itself, and research in non-human primates can ensure the safety profile of potential therapies, before they proceed to human trials.
However, animal research organizations are experiencing the same COVID-19 related complications as any other industry. For those who provide the tools and services necessary for this research, it has been a prominent concern to ensure scientists continue to have access to what they need.
Below, we highlight some of the ways the industry has adapted since the pandemic began:
Mitigating risk in the early stages of the pandemic
As reality of the growing crisis became clear earlier this year, some institutions were forced to make the difficult decision to humanely reduce the numbers of live animals they had on site. Envigo lobbied alongside other industry leaders to secure the key-worker status of individuals caring for research animals to prevent further loss. This action has made it possible for facilities to maintain the health and safety of their colonies, which will be an important part of the global recovery.
The scale of measures implemented to keep these key workers safe while they work is unprecedented. In addition to providing PPE and regular deep cleaning, staff are segregated into groups who work in shifts and undergo temperature checks to quickly identify any that need quarantine.
Continual open and consistent communication across all levels of the company ensures that these new processes are protecting staff - and helping them protect each other - while they maintain the health and safety of animals in our care.
Collaboration, not competition
As the crisis deepened, organizations across the biomedical sector began to collaborate in ways not previously seen. Competition between institutions has now been replaced by a shared effort to ensure the welfare of research animals.
Envigo has supported these new working relationships by publishing guidance for institutions who may need to redeploy people to different roles. Our customer care team is available to connect groups in need of particular expertise, such as veterinarians or technicians, to those with spare capacity.
The sector has been required to overcome barriers that didn't previously exist, such as a sudden loss of transport for animals or newly emerging customs restrictions at borders. The close relationships we enjoy with our customers has been a key to find solutions to these barriers, thereby ensuring animals are received on time for a given research protocol.
Looking to the future
The delay to research that is not related to COVID-19 will have a long-term negative impact on the scientific progress needed to address unmet clinical needs across a range of conditions. During this delay, Envigo has preserved the health and pathogenic safety of research models using expertise in cryopreservation and rederivation. These services will enable researchers to pick up where they left off once restrictions are lifted.
For those who need live animals, a vast amount of collaborative effort has made it possible for Envigo to prepare for the future needs of research laboratories. How we manage our inventories now will directly impact the ability of animal researchers to quickly and safely rebuild their colonies and resume their critically important research.
The world will be a different place once we move beyond the COVID-19 crisis. As a sector, we will take with us the newly collaborative relationships and innovative solutions that benefit research practice and support scientific discovery.
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