World first as UK researchers infect artificial liver with Hepatitis B virus

Excerpted from The Engineer:

Researchers at Imperial College London have become the first in the world to test how pathogens interact with artificial human organs, so called organ-on-chip technologies. The group claims that the pioneering tests pave the way for an improved understanding and of a range of diseases enabling the development of new treatments. Keep reading »

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HTPC/HSUS awarded international Lush Prize in recognition of efforts to end animal testing

We’re proud to announce that we are the recipients of the prestigious Lush Prize award for training in recognition of our efforts to replace animal testing with alternatives.

The prize was awarded to the Human Toxicology Project Consortium (HTPC), in recognition of a training program we developed that helps scientists apply alternative methods. Lush created a video explaining the project.

The HTPC is a coalition of corporate and non-profit organizations, founded and coordinated by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) that promotes the development & implementation of non-animal science to improve chemical safety tests. As part of our training program, earlier this year we created a course to promote the concept and application of Adverse Outcome Pathways, or AOPs. An AOP is a flexible framework that describes the events that occur following chemical exposure. The course trains scientists to use a software package that allows them to organize and combine biological information. When organized this way, the information helps scientists predict what will happen after chemical exposure, as an alternative to testing that chemical on animals. The course was developed by the HTPC and etioLogic Consulting Services, in collaboration with an international group of scientists, and has been incorporated into the training materials of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Dr. Catherine Willett, Director of Regulatory Toxicology, Risk Assessment and Alternatives for The HSUS will accept the award at a ceremony in London this evening.

Lush Prize is a joint project between Lush Cosmetics and the Ethical Consumer Research Association (ECRA) and was founded in 2012 as a way of supporting initiatives to replace the use of animals in research. Prizes are awarded annually in Lobbying, Public Awareness, Science, Training, and Young Researchers, and each winner is awarded £50,000 (around $65,000). This year, more than 66 entries from 29 countries were submitted.

The prize money we receive will be used to continue our work to advance non-animal methods in research and testing.

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Species Extrapolation Workgroup at SETAC’s Annual Meeting

Planning to be in Minneapolis next week for the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) North America Annual Meeting? Please join us at The Species Extrapolation Workgroup, a meeting that will explore how scientists can protect endangered species while reducing animal testing.

Currently, data used to protect endangered species has the unintended consequence of helping to increase animal testing and prohibiting the acceptance of alternative test methods and data sources that would reduce or replace animal testing. Presentations and a discussion will explore what data is needed to protect endangered species and how improving species extrapolation methods could best address those needs.

The workgroup will be held on Sunday, November 12 from 1-4pm at the Minneapolis Convention Center, Room: M101J.

Register: http://www.setac.org/store/view_product.asp?id=9684852

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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