Replacing animal testing

Korean LunchReplacing animal testing is good for business

Photo caption: Let’s put it all on one table (OpenTox Asia 2017, South Korea)

Every day, we come into contact with chemicals whose effects on the human body and the environment have not been adequately tested. Over 100,000 of them need urgent evaluation – and that’s something traditional animal-based methods can’t cope with. In addition to the humane and ethical reasons long raised by animal activists, the need for safety testing has become too vast, the numbers too large, the expense involved too great. Most importantly, the findings based on animal testing are often inconclusive for humans. A lab mouse’s physiology is not the same as a human baby’s.

From 20-24 August, researchers from around the world will gather in Seattle at the 10th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences to discuss how to move science away from animal testing. For animal rights groups, of course, this move is overdue. But, now, the chemical, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries – long-pilloried as adversaries by activists - are themselves convinced that animal testing is no longer the appropriate model.

WC10 brings together people from all over the world, across disciplines and industries, who are working to develop new in vitro and in silico methods to replace animal testing, as well as on frameworks for these methods’ integration, validation, industrial use and regulatory acceptance.

You could call this combined effort the Human Safety Project, because the challenge is even bigger than the Human Genome Project.

My own experience with establishing the international non-profit OpenTox Association and the related OpenRiskNet infrastructure development has shown that, with a common language, standards, data and methods, scientists everywhere can reliably work together. When you get it right, it is like a Korean banquet: 50 different dishes on the table and everyone sharing the experience and making comments. Which test is more reliable? What are your results? How do we come to a consensus? How do we validate?

If we can achieve this kind of interaction and discussion, the emerging science of safety assessment will save time and resources.

With over 100,000 chemicals to evaluate, there is certainly no time to waste.


Dr Barry Hardy is a Managing Director (CEO) at Douglas Connect


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Edelweiss Connect manages collaborative projects to achieve goals in scientific research, infrastructure development or service provision. Effective collaboration requires many elements including coordination, culture, communications, common understanding, decision-making and interoperability.


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