Progress on alternative approaches to animal testing

The European Partnership on Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing (EPAA) was launched in November 2005 by European Commission Vice President Günter Verheugen and Science & Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik together with the European industry. At a conference in Brussels both industry and the Commission have expressed their strong wish to strengthen this unprecedented collaboration to reduce animal testing as much as possible to avoid unnecessary suffering for animals (the 3Rs Approach) wherever possible.

Vice-President Günter Verheugen, Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, and Science & Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik jointly stated: "The launch of the EPAA in 2005 reflected our strong view that alternative approaches in regulatory testing had to be prioritised in order to improve the safety and quality of human lives whilst causing the minimum harm to animals in scientific experiments. Indeed we have an ethical obligation to avoid their unnecessary suffering. Consequently, policy makers and industry have engaged in a constructive partnership to do their utmost to develop methods that reduce, refine and replace animal testing. Our common vision has already produced tangible results."

Research on alternative approaches is the key to implementing the 3Rs of replacement, reduction and refinement. Both the European Commission and industry devote significant resources to Research & Development (R&D) to align priorities and initiate projects that will lead to less and better use of animal testing: For instance,

  • EPAA companies volunteered to provide data for adapting an extended one generation study, originally developed for plant protection products, for use in other sectors as well, thus reducing the animals used in traditional two-generation studies.
  • New innovative approaches to provision of the key toxicological information without the use of animal models. Work continues on the use of stem cells and computational chemistry and systems biology.
  • EPAA data bases promote cross-sector sharing of In-house methods to identify opportunities for technology transfer and to identify current research gaps. Thus animal testing can be reduced.

To promote the uptake of alternative methods in regulation, the European Commission and EPAA companies have developed protocols for cooperation, identified priorities for data communication and developed recommendations for speeding up regulatory uptake. Furthermore, projects were launched on:

  • How to best use and combine data from different sources to replace traditional animal testing and to promote Integrated Testing Strategies for regulation.
  • Innovative testing procedures in vaccine batch release testing, in order to replace as possible in vivo tests with in vitro tests.
  • Ways to promote international cooperation on alternative approaches, now a standing item on the agenda of the EU regulatory dialogue with international trading partners.

Under its 2009 lead theme, dissemination of 3R information, the EPAA has carried out a market survey on information needs and ways to enhance dialogue between regulators and method developers.

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