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PLoS One. 2019 Jun 13;14(6):e0218014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0218014. eCollection 2019.

A standardised framework to identify optimal animal models for efficacy assessment in drug development.

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Department of Pharmaceutics, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Innovation Studies, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Medicines Evaluation Board, Utrecht, The Netherlands.



Poor translation of efficacy data derived from animal models can lead to clinical trials unlikely to benefit patients-or even put them at risk-and is a potential contributor to costly and unnecessary attrition in drug development.


To develop a tool to assess, validate and compare the clinical translatability of animal models used for the preliminary assessment of efficacy.


We performed a scoping review to identify the key aspects used to validate animal models. Eight domains (Epidemiology, Symptomatology and Natural History-SNH, Genetic, Biochemistry, Aetiology, Histology, Pharmacology and Endpoints) were identified. We drafted questions to evaluate the different facets of human disease simulation. We designed the Framework to Identify Models of Disease (FIMD) to include standardised instructions, a weighting and scoring system to compare models as well as factors to help interpret model similarity and evidence uncertainty. We also added a reporting quality and risk of bias assessment of drug intervention studies in the Pharmacological Validation domain. A web-based survey was conducted with experts from different stakeholders to gather input on the framework. We conducted a pilot study of the validation in two models for Type 2 Diabetes (T2D)-the ZDF rat and db/db mouse. Finally, we present a full validation and comparison of two animal models for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD): the mdx mouse and GRMD dog. We show that there are significant differences between the mdx mouse and the GRMD dog, the latter mimicking the human epidemiological, SNH, and histological aspects to a greater extent than the mouse despite the overall lack of published data.


FIMD facilitates drug development by serving as the basis to select the most relevant model that can provide meaningful data and is more likely to generate translatable results to progress drug candidates to the clinic.

Conflict of interest statement

All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at and declare: GSF reports personal fees from Merck KGaA and SDD Consulting B.V. outside of the submitted work. DVG reports personal fees from Nutricia Research B.V outside of the submitted work. None of the other authors has any conflicts of interest. This does not alter our adherence to PLOS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.

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