Investing in Cutting-Edge Animal Models

Organisms with human-like diseases and symptoms are critical to finding cures.

Animal models are central to the scientific research enterprise, as scrutinizing how animals’ bodies work can lead to important insights into human biology. Moreover, by mimicking human ailments in animals, scientists can shed light on the causes and symptoms of a disease and test the safety and efficacy of therapeutic compounds, leading to all kinds of insights with direct bearing on human health. Over the last century, animal research has contributed to a number of important innovations, including blood transfusions, anesthetics, insulin for the treatment of diabetes, anti-depressants, and MRI machines.

With an AAALAC-accredited animal care and research program, our researchers have access to a broad range of animal models, including genetically-modified non-human primates, germ-free mice, and the world’s largest zebrafish facility. To date, IRP investigators have used animal models to improve our understanding of opioid abuse, alcoholism, and cocaine addiction, pursue the creation of novel cancer treatments, develop an FDA-approved antibody for the prevention of severe respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in infants, and investigate the underlying genetic cause of various rare diseases.

The IRP firmly believes that continued progress in biomedical research will require a continued source of reliable, robust, and innovative research models. As a result, IRP investigators across all 27 institutes and centers are working tirelessly to develop new animal models and leverage existing models in creative ways to address some of the most pressing challenges of today. To ensure that IRP investigators have access to the research models that they need to achieve those goals, the IRP has identified several key areas of focus within the field of animal modelling, including:

  • Improving animal care and enhancing access to NIH’s wide array of animal models
  • Investing in a large, centralized vivarium and new laboratories to replace aging animal facilities
  • Creating a CRISPR core to enable IRP scientists to develop novel transgenic animals using the gene-editing technology

Explore these pages for more information about the past, present, and future of animal model research: 

Check out all 12 of the domains in which we are Accelerating Science to learn about how IRP scientists are tackling important biomedical challenges.