The Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research has called for an 'alternatives revolution' to speed up the development of research techniques to replace animals in medical research and testing.
Much progress has been made in non-animal replacement research over the last 50 years, particularly in safety testing where considerable effort and funding has been focused.
Techniques to replace experiments on live animals and thereby improve the human-relevance of research, have also been making an impact in the field of medical research.
However, despite such progress, millions of animals continue to be used in experiments across the world each year - an estimated 115 million worldwide, 12.1 million in the European Union and a 22-year high of 3.6 million animals used in Britain.
Such a trend of increase is bad news for scientific research as well as animal welfare, says the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research, the UK's leading non-animal medical research charity.
The Dr Hadwen Trust's science team is attending the 7th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences, taking place in Rome, which brings together scientists from around the globe to discuss successes and challenges in the alternatives agenda.
This year, as the Congress is marking the 50th anniversary of the 'Three Rs' (replacement, reduction and refinement of animal experiments) concept developed in 1959 by zoologist William Russell and microbiologist Rex Burch, the Trust says much greater could and should have been made in the last 50 years.
'It is important to recognise the huge strides forward we have made in developing advanced techniques to replace animal experiments, and the improvements those methods have made to the quality and relevance of medical research,' says Dr Candida Nastrucci, science communications officer at the Dr Hadwen Trust.
'However, so much more progress could and should have been made over the last 50 years.
'With the number of animals used in laboratories going up each year, but the accuracy of animal methods still relatively low, it is more important than ever that scientists and policy makers around the world unite in an alternatives revolution to drive forward the pace of change,' she added.
The Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research funds cutting-edge research at universities across Britain.
Its projects aim to replace the use of animals in medical research and by so doing, improve the relevance and quality of research into debilitating conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, skin cancer and brain disorders.
For example, in March, a Dr Hadwen Trust-funded three-dimensional human cell model of early breast cancer won the NC3Rs' animal replacement prize.
The model offers a more human-relevant approach and replaces experiments that can use up to 400 mice per test in tumour studies.
At the 7th World Congress in Rome, nine DHT-funded scientists have presented their advanced research into alternatives to animal experiments.
Among them, Dr Brian Thomson from the University of Nottingham presented a talk entitled 'The development of tissue engineering models for the study of human liver disease' and Professor Paul Furlong at Aston University in Birmingham illustrated 'Neuroimaging techniques and applications to pain perception'.