In vivo testing

In Vivo Studies in Drug Discovery

Friday 29th Jul 2022 |

To recognise the benefits of in vivo studies in drug discovery, it is essential to understand what these are.

We must also know how they differ from in vitro studies and how an in vivo study can be used in drug discovery.

What is an In Vivo Study?

An in vitro study is the name for medical tests, procedures and experiments that happen ‘in glass’, whereas in vivo is Latin for ‘within the living’. These tests, experiments and research procedures are performed on and in living organisms. These living organisms can include laboratory animals, plants and ultimately, people.

In vivo testing is an essential part of the medical research process to bring new drugs to market. Before a drug can be released, it must pass human clinical trials, and at this point, many promising drugs can fail as they cause adverse side effects that make them unsuitable at some of the final hurdles. On top of the approximately 30% of drug candidates that fall, 60% do not have the desired effect in use. 

The importance of clinical safety before drug release

Bringing new drugs to market is a costly and time swallowing process that is essential and unavoidable. Many regulations must be met, and potential outcomes identified before a drug is released for use. It is necessary to fully understand the mechanisms and effects the drug will have when it comes into human contact. Not just how effective it will be at curing the targeted disease but understanding how the treatment reacts to other areas of the human body is essential. 

Only by carrying out targeted testing on similarly genetic materials and bodies can the outcomes be assessed, along with adverse reactions. Many drugs will cause adverse reactions. Therefore, the balance is to understand at what point and in whom they can be seen and make educated decisions based on those results. In some cases, there will be an acceptable level of adverse reaction to benefit from the drug’s positive effects. Yet essentially, the balance must be informed, understood, and deemed sufficient for the medicine to pass rigorous clinical safety trials. Once adverse reactions are understood, the process of change and redefining can begin.

In vivo studies inform drug development and regulatory compliance

To that end, in vivo animal studies report the mechanisms underlying the relevant disease processes to assess emerging medical treatments’ safety and likely effectiveness.

Contract research organisations such as Vivonics are specialists helping researchers assess new medicines’ potential effects on vital organs. Helping guide those in drug discovery fields navigate the range of testing and in vivo assays that inform future drug development. Ensuring you use testing and result interpretation experts will help inform strategies and decisions at the earliest opportunity.

In vitro studies provide further information to inform further in vivo studies that are carried out on biologically relevant animals as a precursor to human trials. Genetically identical mice and rats allow biological drug or treatment effects to be monitored within organisms. Using similar genetic subjects within laboratory conditions provides a control that clinical trials cannot replicate.   


Whether the intended drugs are for use in humans or animals, the need to ensure drug and treatment safety is equally pertinent and essential. In vivo studies are an integral part of early drug discovery, and in some cases, using animals as biologically relevant samples is unavoidable. Once the medication has passed the in vitro studies, in vivo testing enables drug studies to advance drug candidate development to the point where future human trials are considered safe.  

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