Design of the BMC
MAASTRICHT. The construction of a new laboratory animal facility in Randwyck, the Biomedical Centre (BMC), has suffered a serious delay. It was to be finished this year, but that won’t be possible by a long shot. Discussions with potential construction companies and technicians are taking longer than planned; their prices are said to be too high. The Executive Board, together with the managers from the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, will provide more clarity at the beginning of February.
Maastricht University’s laboratory animal centre has been in need of replacement for a long time. The Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences announced the plans for a new building back in 2011. Not an unnecessary luxury, it appeared in 2013, when Observant was given a tour of the facility. The space was too small and the logistics also needed to be improved, so that researchers didn’t have to use the hallways when transporting their mice and rats to their own labs. Because this only increases the risk of infection for the animals (rendering them useless). There was also criticism about the location, across from Universiteitssingel 40, where psychologists and health scientists have full view of the outdoor spaces for larger animals. In addition, the ventilation system had reached its maximum capacity.
We are now years further and equipment “has become obsolete to such an extent that investments in their replacement can no longer be put off,” states FHML’s budget for 2021. “We will always investigate whether the equipment purchased can be transferred to the new centre.” According to Andreas Teubner, director of the animal laboratory facility, this concerns the purchase of such equipment as operation tables and extractor fans. He emphasises that these meet with all “legal and academic requirements”.
The new BMC will be located around the corner from Universiteitssingel and Oxfordlaan. The building permit was issued in September 2019. Remarkably, no objections were submitted, not even by the Animal Rights foundation. After all, they had announced to take legal action. Their chairman did send a letter to the Executive Board with the request to stop animal testing and not start the construction work.
Activists have regularly made themselves heard over the past years. Things really came to a head in August 2014, when it appeared that Labradors were being used for cardiology research. Demonstrations and threats led to the research being suspended and stopped shortly after that.
Last Monday, 25 January, two researchers from Nijmegen – Willem Mulder and Judith Homberg – wrote an opinion piece in de Volkskrant, in support of animal testing. Dozens of researchers signed the petition – a handful of those were from the UM. “The COVID-19 crisis has taught us that research free from animal testing is undesirable and impossible if we want vaccines against a pandemic,” they argued. Replacement of laboratory animal research is “still by no means achievable” and an accelerated transition to research without laboratory animals would be “very unwise”.