A recent meeting of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Alternative Toxicological Methods (SACATM) was an opportunity for the committee and the public to learn more about the strategic roadmap developed by the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM). Composed of representatives from 16 federal agencies that require the use of animals for toxicity testing, ICCVAM was established by Congress to facilitate the regulatory acceptance of new test methods that reduce, refine, or replace animal tests. SACATM provides input on ICCVAM priorities and activities and is comprised of representatives from industry, academia, and animal protection organizations.

During the September 18-19 SACATM meeting in Bethesda, MD, presentations and discussions examined ICCVAM’s important role in facilitating the development and use of non-animal test methods and how, through implementation of the strategic roadmap, ICCVAM could better accomplish this legislated purpose. Both presenters and participants generally agreed about a few key points:

  • There is a need for stakeholder engagement in all stages of the alternative test development and implementation process. This will ensure that new methods that are developed will meet the needs of the regulators and be used by industry.
  • Agencies must provide clear communication about their safety information needs and acceptance of new methods to inform decision making about alternative method development and encourage use of new non-animal methods.
  • Efforts must be made to establish confidence in and understanding of new alternative methods.

During the SACATM meeting, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) affirmed that the agency is progressing in its plans to promote the use of alternatives to animal testing in compliance with the Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (LCSA) that was signed into law on June 22, 2016. LCSA updated a 40-year-old federal law regulating industrial chemicals and introduces, for the first time ever in U.S. law, provisions to minimize animal testing and prioritize the development and use of non-animal test methods.

Under LCSA, EPA was tasked with creating a strategic plan within two years of the law’s enactment to “promote the development and implementation of alternative test methods and strategies to reduce, refine, or replace vertebrate animal testing…”

Dr. Louis Scarano from EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics outlined the agency’s draft goals for its strategic plan including:

  1. Reducing and replacing vertebrate animal testing;
  2. Using integrated approaches to testing and assessment (IATA) as the principle method for alternative development;
  3. Collaborating with stakeholders to develop and implement alternative methods; and
  4. Inspiring industry and regulators to develop alternative methods that create confidence.

While it is clear that LCSA will significantly increase toxicity testing of industrial chemicals, the EPA’s strategic plan will be an important guidepost for ensuring that any additional test requirements will be mitigated by efforts to actively ensure the immediate reduction and ultimate replacement of animal testing with new alternative methods. If done right, this plan will also ensure that alternatives continue to be developed that can replace animal use for additional EPA information needs.

ICCVAM’s final strategic roadmap will be unveiled during an upcoming meeting in November and a first draft of EPA’s strategic plan is expected to be released in April 2018. We look forward to providing comments about these plans and working with the agencies to ensure their successful implementation.

Read more about the SACATM meeting in this National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) article by Catherine Sprankle.