Emory University symposium to highlight animal-free innovations in biomedical research

Calling all Atlanta-area residents! The Human Toxicology Project Consortium, in collaboration with Emory University School of Law, will present a free half-day symposium on Monday, October 23rd, 2017 to showcase the latest animal-free innovations in biomedical research. These research methods and technologies offer the most efficient approach to pre-clinical drug and device development and toxicity testing of commercial chemicals.

Scientists, lawyers, students, other members of the Emory community and beyond are invited to hear about bio-technology, computer science and engineering approaches, such as sophisticated 3-D cell culture systems; stem cell technologies that allow research on individual diseases; organ-on-a-chip technologies; genomics; proteomics; metabolomics; computational modeling; bioinformatics “knowledge-bases”; and other platforms for linking mechanistic biological information and developing predictive models of human diseases.

The regulatory challenges of applying these technologies to drug and device development and toxicity testing will also be addressed. Presentations will be followed by a panel discussion and question and answer period with the audience.

The symposium is free to attend, but registration is required. Those who would like to participate in the free lunch following the symposium must register no later than Saturday, October 18th.

For more information and to register, please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-symposium-exploring-new-technologies-in-biomedical-research-tickets-37999430319.


Strategic plans reveal U.S. agencies’ commitment to adopting non-animal alternative approaches to toxicity testing

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.


New HSI/HSUS-funded review reveals that advanced technologies could replace animals in tuberculosis research

The number of scientists using sophisticated human cell-based methods to study tuberculosis (TB) is increasing, improving understanding of this deadly disease and potentially reducing the number of animals used in TB research. That is the major finding of a recently published review in PLoS Pathogens that was partially funded by Humane Society International (HSI) and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

TB is the world’s leading cause of death by an infectious agent, causing over 1.8 million deaths per year and persisting in a latent form in almost 2 billion people globally. We have previously highlighted some of the reasons why animals are not effective as models of TB infection in our science blogs—particularly the fact that mice are not naturally susceptible to TB infection and do not develop the lung damage that typifies the human infection.

This new review is the latest in a series of publications supported by HSI and HSUS with the intent of actively supporting the development of roadmaps for human disease research. By supporting critical reviews of how animals are used to study important human diseases, we’re able to demonstrate how cutting-edge human-based models, such as those discussed in this review, can offer a deeper understanding of the human condition.

Ultimately, the best models for human diseases like tuberculosis are state-of-the-art cell culture-based alternatives. It is disappointing to see that animals are still being used, particularly given concerns over the quality of animal-based science and the inconsistency of data from animal studies. This review clearly indicates that advances in technology are providing complex, sophisticated, three-dimensional cultures—like the human lung “organoids” that resemble the lung and may be used for modelling the kinetics of TB infection—to monitor drug performance and evaluate the effects of new drugs.

It is exciting to think that, one day, lung organoids derived from a patient’s own cells could allow doctors to design a precise treatment specific to that individual—while also replacing the use of animals in the process.


EPA Scientist Dr. Robert Kavlock Honored for Advancing Alternatives to Animal Testing

Congratulations to Dr. Robert Kavlock, a leading figure in the advancement of alternatives to animal testing, who was recently honored with The Humane Society of the United States’ 2017 Russell & Burch Award. The award, which recognizes scientists who have done outstanding work to move science away from using animals in harmful research and testing, was presented on August 20, during the 10th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences in Seattle, Washington.

“Robert Kavlock has been at the forefront of the development of alternatives to animal testing,” said Dr. Kate Willett, The HSUS’ Director of Regulatory Toxicology & Risk Assessment, Animal Research Issues. “He’s a leader of the Tox21′ revolution within EPA to develop rapid, non-animal methods for assessing thousands of chemicals, an approach that now serves as a strong foundation to move us entirely away from the use of animals in this area, sparing millions of animals from significant suffering.”

Dr. Kavlock is the acting assistant administrator for the Office of Research and Development at the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and the Acting EPA Science Advisor. He was previously the Director of the National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT). During his tenure, he led the ToxCast program which has made significant scientific contributions toward the use of mathematics and computer modeling to assess and predict how toxic substances are (known as computational toxicology) as well as enabling important regulatory changes that have resulted in fewer animals being used in testing.

Since 1991, The HSUS has presented the Russell & Burch Award every two to three years, awarding a total of 15 scientists for their role in advancing methods that will improve science and decrease animal suffering, ultimately replacing the use of animals altogether. Recipients of the award receive a $5,000 prize and trophy.

EPA Tox21 ToxCast World Congress on Alternatives

Sleepless in Seattle: An update from the World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences

Our experts will be working round-the-clock in Seattle this week at the World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences! Over the next several days, staff from The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International & The Humane Society Legislative Fund will be at the vanguard of the discussion at this global event that brings together the world’s foremost experts on animal testing alternatives & animal welfare from industry, government, non-profits & academia.

Are you in Seattle, too? Please visit us at our booth (#309) and plan to attend the following events! Somewhere else in the world? Check out what we’re up to below and view the World Congress program.


• 10:00 a.m. – noon
“Introduction to Adverse Outcome Pathways and the AOP Wiki” Satellite Meeting
Sheraton Seattle, Aspen Room
10:00 a.m. Introduction to the OECD AOP Programme and Online Training course – Kate Willett, Human Toxicology Project Council
10:40 a.m. Building AOPs for Neurotoxicity: Perspective from an Academic – Ellen Fritsche, IUF – Leibniz Research Institute for Environmental Medicine
11:20 a.m. Demonstration and Hands-On Activity with AOP Wiki – Kristie Sullivan, Physicians Committee for Responsibility MedicineSponsors: Human Toxicology Project Consortium and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine


• 12:15 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
“Tracking the successful implementation of Tox21 principles.”
Room 6ABC, Board number A43
Poster presenter Vicki Katrinak looks at how the chemical safety testing landscape has changed over the past ten years, as toxicologists embrace new, non-animal testing strategies.

• 12:15 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
“Legislative process toward animal testing bans for cosmetics in Brazil.”
Room 6ABC, Board number A44
Poster presenter Antoniana Ottoni discusses how the Brazilian authorities aim to implement validated alternative, non-animal tests for commonly used toxicological endpoints and reviews plans to ensure the regulations are updated before the deadline of 2019.

• 2:00 p.m.
“Implications of the Recent 2016 Amendment of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) on the Development and Implementation of Non-Animal Methods.”
Session II-2: Government Driven Legislation – EDSP/TSCA; 1:15 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.; Rooms 613-614
Speaker Catherine Willett will explain how animal testing could actually increase under the new chemical safety act, and describe how co-ordinated efforts are needed to exploit non-vertebrate models and other evaluation tools to prevent this.


• 10:30 a.m.
“Challenges in implementing the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act: A perspective covering stakeholders, the U.S. Congress and the current Administration.”
Session IX-4: Global Regulatory Updates; 10:00 a.m. – noon; Room 607
Speaker: Sara Amundson

• 12:15 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
“Modeling the human airways: from physiology to pathology.”
Room 6ABC, Board number A65
Poster presenter Lindsay Marshall shows how laboratory models using human cells can be used to look at the function of healthy airways and demonstrates that the models can be adapted to enable the study of airways disease, such as cystic fibrosis.

• 12:15 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
“iPSC and 3D tissue technologies powerful alternatives to animal models for brain disease research”
Room 6ABC, Board number A77
Poster presenter Marcia Triunfol reports on an exciting, HSI-sponsored workshop held in Brazil earlier this year. Brazilian and international scientists discussed the potential for 21st century technologies to replace animals in brain research.


• 12:15 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
“A ‘bottom-up’ approach to accelerate new opportunities in alternatives and Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP) practice in China”
Room 6ABC, Board number C81
Poster presenter Tina Qu reports on the progress made in promoting non-animal technologies in China, including the recent roll-out of an AOP-training program.

• 10:45 a.m.
“Towards a 21st-century roadmap for biomedical research and drug discovery”
Session IX-8: Global Efforts Moving Towards Replacement of Animals;
10:00 a.m. – noon; Rooms 619-620
Speaker Troy Seidle describes the application of pathways-based approaches to understand chemical safety and details how a series of workshops sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International have introduced this concept to other stakeholders – describing the main recommendations from these events.


• 10:48 a.m.
“The Human Toxicology Project Consortium: a private-public partnership to promote development and acceptance of pathway-based science”
Session IX-6: 3Rs Communication and Advocacy; 10:00 a.m. – noon; Rooms 619-620
Speaker Catherine Willett will describe the work of the Human Toxicology Project Consortium (HTPC), which aims to advance a biological pathway-based approach to toxicology. She will explain how HTPC intends to achieve this through scientific activities, communication, and advocating for financial and legislative support.

• 11:45 a.m.
“Deletion of scientifically redundant animal test requirements in the agrochemical sector: the case of the 1-year dog study”
Session IV-1: Predictive Safety Approaches Role in the Design of Inherently Safer Chemicals; 10:00 a.m. – noon; Rooms 615-616
Speaker Marco Corvaro will explain how the ongoing global effort to end a test that has been proven redundant illustrates how challenging it can be to enact regulatory change. He will also discuss strategies to improve the use of modern approaches to testing and risk assessment.

• 11:46 a.m.
“A campaign to end invasive chimpanzee research and retire all chimpanzees to sanctuaries: successful strategies and lessons learned”
Session IX-6: 3Rs Communication and Advocacy; 10:00 a.m. – noon; Rooms 619-620
Speaker Kathleen Conlee will take us from 2006, when The Humane Society of the United States launched their campaign to end the use of chimpanzees in invasive research, to today where numbers of chimps in labs have dropped and research chimps are finally being retired to sanctuaries.

AOP tutorials AOPs non-animal tests toxicity testing alternatives toxicology World Congress on Alternatives

Human Stem Cells for Studying ALS

Recently, the potential of stem cells in ALS research has been revealed in the laboratory and in the clinic. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) are stem cells, often derived from adult human skin cells, that can be turned into other types of cell – including nerve cells (see picture). In a ground-breaking laboratory study in 2014, iPSC-derived motor neurons from people with an aggressive form of SOD1-related ALS were shown to have increased electrical activity compared to motor neurons made from iPSC from people who did not have ALS. The ‘ALS neurons’ did not live very long in the lab, but correcting the SOD1 mutation reduced neuron hyperactivity and increased their lifespan.

Read more…

digital illustration neurons