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Animal Research—Indispensable or Inhumane?

Recently, U.S Republican Representative Mike Bishop introduced a federal bill entitled “Kittens in Traumatic Testing Ends Now Act in 2018.” Known as the Kitten Act, the bill seeks to end animal research on kittens and cats. But the bill, which has bipartisan support, raises a larger question about animal research. Should animals be used for research? If so, which animals should be used in research and which ones should not? With animal research playing a tremendous role in modern-day health explorations, examining this issue further is important.

Rising Trends Against Animal Research

Opposition to using animals for research is not new. Organizations like PETA have advocated for decades already against animals used in research. The primary reason for this opposition stems from its perceived cruelty to animals used in research. Increased media attention, including social media accounts, has made many question the use of animals for research purposes. In addition, animal research results are far from perfect. Significant uncertainty about the results is often present. Likewise, animal research is costly. These issues have helped politicians and advocacy groups alike gain support in opposing animal use in research.

Putting Animal Research in Perspective

While researchers should avoid cruelty at all costs to the animals they use in research, reason for debate does exist. Statistics regarding animal research offers a more objective way in determining the utility of animal use in research. Overall, researchers use about 26 million animals for research in the US each year. Over 95% of these animals used in research are rodents, birds, or fish. Likewise, the number of animals used in other industries is staggering when compared with animals used in research. Each year, Americans consume over 9 billion chickens and require 150 million cattle, pigs, and sheep for various products. In fact, the ratio of chickens used for food to animals used in research is 340-to-1!

What Are Alternatives to Animal Research?

Advances in technology have provided some new alternatives to animal research. Specifically, the use of chemical databases and computer programs offer a great alternative in some cases. A recent study looking at toxic effects of new drugs found database “read-across” to be between 80% and 95% as accurate as animal research. Cell line cultures offer another alternative to live animals used in research. As these methods improve, opportunities to reduce animal research might be possible.

However, these types of alternatives have notable limitations. Animal research provides a living organism with complex organ systems similar to human beings. Computer programs and cell lines cannot offer this. Also, without animal research, discoveries like insulin and the polio vaccine would not have been possible even today. Did you know chimpanzees have 99% of the same DNA as humans, whereas mice have 98% in common? While cell lines might be better in this area, only animal research offers a living system for more accurate predictions.

The Benefits Versus the Costs of Animal Research

From a human point of view, animal research offers tremendous potential. For example, recent research showed that gene therapy used in paralyzed rats restored sensation and some movement in paralyzed limbs. In another study, a new hepatitis virus was found in New World monkeys that might provide important answers in preventing and treating hepatitis B. What are the benefits to us? For spinal cord injuries, over 17,000 new cases occur each year in the US. For hepatitis B, hundreds develop cirrhosis or liver cancer from the disease. These figures help support the use of animals in research.

While human populations mainly benefit, animals also benefit from animal research. Researchers at Johns Hopkins use animal research to guide new cancer treatments in dogs. Likewise, animal research provided several veterinary treatments pertaining to rabies, distemper, feline leukemia, and canine parvovirus. Although not the primary intent of animal research, it is noteworthy that benefits to animals from this research do occur. This and the significant impacts animal research has made on human health demand consideration.

Should Animals Be Used in Research?

According to the California Biomedical Research Association, every medical breakthrough in the last century has been because of animal research. Among scientists, nearly 9 out of every 10 support its use. It is also important to realize that strict legislation concerning animal research is already in place. . Whether kittens need to be used in research remains to be determined. But so far, new technologies do not appear to avoid animal research.

Animal research is still very active in all fifty states through grants from the National Institutes of Health. And the role animal research will play in advancing gene therapies and precision medicine will likely be profound. The need, however, for greater transparency and open communications about the use of current animal research is paramount. Dialogue needs to occur among researchers, veterinarians, animal workers, and the public. Through these opportunities to exchange information, we can determine the usefulness of animals in research. This could be the ultimate solution in coming to a consensus about the role animals in research should take.

Space Exploration Made More Possible by Cyanobacteria

Cartoon of astronauts on a space exploration.
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Artificial Intelligence: A New Director in Film-Making

Ever since IBM Watson used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create a dramatic movie trailer for the film Morgan, the film-making industry hasn’t been the same. With dozens of companies competing with artificial intelligence platforms today, it is not surprising some are exploring the entertainment industry. After all, the industry generates over $700 billion in revenues annually. And film-making offers the perfect place to explore the future roles of artificial intelligence.

From movies that use drones to new 3D technologies that don’t require cheesy glasses, technology is changing the film-making industry. These include viewer interactives, virtual reality, augmented reality as well as new 3D printing technologies for set designs. But the most impressive technology is artificial intelligence. Common uses of AI are those related to marketing activities and improved user experiences. However, artificial intelligence now plays a major role in the entire film-making spectrum.

How Artificial Intelligence Works in Film-Making

companies that uses artificial intelligence in entertainment industry.
Artificial Intelligence Companies Making Waves in the Film-Making Industry

Data drives artificial intelligence. In any industry, including film-making, data can be explored (or “mined”) to reveal patterns, trends, and user preferences. Typically, computers equipped with AI are capable of gobbling up massive amounts of data. They can then analyze the data to create remarkable solutions and products. The difference between artificial intelligence and simple computing is the presence of human inputs from the start. Given human instructions about how to assess data, artificial intelligence systems can then use these rules to self-learn.

When it comes to the future of artificial intelligence in film-making, plenty of data exists. After all, films have been around for many decades, generating tons of data for artificial intelligence systems. Movie data may include artificial intelligence inputs such as box office revenues, production costs, and audience demographics. Likewise, information about the director, screenplay writer, cinematographer, and many other details are available. It is therefore little surprise that many innovative artificial intelligence companies are making their presence known in the film industry.

Cutting-Edge Artificial Intelligence Companies in Film

From marketing to script creation, AI is making waves in the film-making industry. Here are some firms today using AI in the movies that you may have not heard about.

Legendary Entertainment

This independent film company emerged in 2005 with major film hits like The Dark Knight and The Hangover. The company recently invested in dozens of AI products to enhance its marketability. Specifically, artificial intelligence is used to determine which visual to store and use in movie trailers. It also uses AI to “develop” audiences and to determine user preferences.

Vault ML

This Israeli startup company launched in 2015 offering an artificial intelligence platform called 4CAST. In essence, Vault ML took over 30 years of box office data, over 400,000 movie scripts, and numerous other film data as inputs. The output? Vault ML’s AI platform is able to accurately predict opening weekend box office sales 75% of the time. This has tremendous implications in risk management for film-makers.


Originating also in 2015, ScriptBook offers a cloud-based artificial intelligence system to screen movie scripts. All a film-maker has to do is simply upload a movie script, and within five minutes, an analysis is provided. The analysis includes movie MPAA rating, character analysis, target audience profiles, as well as box office sales predictions. Why is this important? Because ScriptBook’s AI platform is accurate 84% of the time in predicting a script’s success or failure.

Pilot Movies

This startup firm based in Boston offers AI as a software-as-a-service platform to film-makers. The AI system uses enormous amounts of data dating back to 1990 involving thousands of films. Cast, director, budgets, plots, and many other inputs are used to determine gross revenues in both the short and long run. Accuracy results range between 70% and 80%. And as an added bonus, film-makers can pick and choose which data inputs to include in the analysis.

Qloo Inc.

Founded in 2011, this New York-based company has made a notable impact in the entertainment industry using artificial intelligence. In addition to music and books, Qloo also provides AI services to the movie industry. With over 3.2 million movies, directors, and actors in its database, Qloo has built millions of movie viewer profiles. It then uses these artificial intelligence-generated profiles to identify viewer preferences, likes, and dislikes. Ultimately, this helps film-makers know to whom to market and which movies to make.

Film-Related Firm Artificial Intelligence Services Founding Year and Location Annual Sales Revenues
Legendary Entertainment AI used for visual storage, movie trailer design, and audience development 2005

Burbank, CA

Vault ML AI used to predict opening weekend revenues at the box office 2015


Not Available
ScriptBook AI cloud-based platform allows rapid move script analysis to predict box office success or failure 2015


Not available
Pilot Movies AI used in a SaaS platform to allow film-makers to predict gross sales revenues long-term 2016

Boston, MA

Not Available
Qloo AI database used to create millions of movie viewer profiles to aid in targeting marketing and creation efforts 2011

New York, NY