In the United States, the process of validating methods that reduce, refine or replace the use of animals in safety testing is coordinated by the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM). Established by Congress in 2000, the committee consists of representatives from each of the 15 federal regulatory and research agencies that “develops, or employs tests or test data using animals, or regulates on the basis of the use of animals in toxicity testing.”

ICCVAM just released its biennial progress report (covering 2012-2013), which includes summaries of its safety testing activities and its collaborations with other federal and international agencies and organizations.  Among the highlights:

  • The Committee moved two non-animal eye irritation testing methods closer to approval for regulatory use: “OptiSafe” will undergo a formal validation procedure managed by the NTP Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM) which provides scientific support to ICCVAM; and the Kao Corporation submitted NICEATM’s test results on its Short Time Exposure test (STE) to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for formal validation.  (The OECD establishes chemical testing guidelines used by industries in the European Union).
  • Representatives of NICEATM and ICCVAM served on the management team for two EURL ECVAM validation studies: one using HepaRG (a human liver cell line) in an in vitro assay for liver toxicity, and another that validated and formally recommended (to the OECD) the direct peptide reactivity assay, an in vitro skin sensitization test.
  • ICCVAM helped to coordinate two international workshops aimed at reducing or replacing animal tests for vaccine development.
  • ICCVAM scientists collaborated with scientists from Procter & Gamble to develop open source software facilitates an integrated testing strategy that combines existing data from in vitro tests, chemical structure information, and computational models to predict the potency of a skin sensitizer; this information can be used to classify sensitization hazard without additional animal testing.
  • ICCVAM coordinated an international validation study of an in vitro method for detecting estrogenic activity, and began compiling an endocrine disruptor database of “high quality in vivo data” on 52 chemicals selected by the EPA; this can be used for validating in vitro methods.
  • With the FDA, ICCVAM developed industry guidelines on pyrogen testing and photosafety testing that highlight available in vitro methods and strategies for reducing animal use.

The report also summarizes inter-agency activities that support the development of alternative methods, such as “crowd-sourcing” data analysis and modeling through data challenges, and ICCVAM’s participation in international efforts to harmonize test guidelines and regulations.

For more information about ICCVAM and NICEATM, see their web site.