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Non-animal Methods for Toxicity Testing

Awards Bestowed at the Eighth World Congress on Alternatives

Last Updated: September 8, 2011
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By Sherry Ward, AltTox Contributing Editor


Last month's Eighth World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences in Montreal, Quebec, Canada culminated with the traditional Awards Ceremony on August 25th, following three days of scientific sessions. Herein, we provide a brief summary of the awards presented, the identity of the award recipients, and comments when available from individual award recipients.


The Humane Society of the United States Russell and Burch Award

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) presents the Russell and Burch Award in honor of William Russell and Rex Burch who formulated the Three Rs approach. It is awarded to scientists who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of alternative methods in the areas of biomedical research, testing, or higher education. Recognizing the important role that scientists play in limiting the use and suffering of animals in laboratories, the Award carries a $5,000 prize. Candidates are judged on the scientific merit and impact of their contribution, and their professional commitment to the alternatives field.

The 2011 HSUS Russell and Burch Award recipient is Dr. Julia Fentem of the Unilever Colworth Laboratory, UK. Dr. Fentem has been a researcher and advocate for alternative methods for many years at Unilever where she was "instrumental in initiating Unilever's ambitious scientific research program, based on integrating and applying new science and technology for human health risk-based decision making." Further details on Dr. Fentem's research and on the Russell and Burch Award are available in the HSUS press release.

Dr. Fentem provided the following thoughts in consideration of her award: "Whilst working at FRAME and ECVAM in the 1990s, I had the privilege to listen to William Russell & Rex Burch on several occasions. I was particularly struck by their deep insights on (animal) models and what they called the 'high fidelity fallacy' (i.e. assumed, rather than evidence-based, relevance to human responses). It is therefore a real honour to receive an award named in recognition of two visionary thought leaders who, over 50 years from when they wrote The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique, continue to have significant impact on both developments in laboratory animal protection legislation and the research into non-animal approaches we are undertaking today. We may have new computational tools and technologies that enable us to develop detailed models of biological systems, as we are doing at Unilever for skin allergy and DNA damage for example, but the principles and teachings of Russell & Burch on models and modeling must continue to guide us as we strive for scientifically robust approaches to replace animal studies."


Charles River Laboratories Excellence in Refinement Award

The Charles River Laboratories' Excellence in Refinement Award, sponsored by Charles River's Commitment to Humane Animal Research Through Excellence and Responsibility (CHARTER) Program in cooperation with the John's Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT), honors an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the development, promotion, and/or implementation of refinement alternatives. This award is based on the conviction that the humane care of laboratory animals is both a moral imperative and a scientific necessity. The Award includes $5,000 to further the recipient's scientific endeavors.

This refinement award was made to Dr. Alicia Karas of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Massachusetts, in recognition of her research on reducing pain in laboratory animals. "Her primary research interests include the assessment and treatment of pain or distress in laboratory animals, animal well-being, pain management and pain medicine." Dr. Karas' contributions and this award are further described in the CAAT press release.

Dr. Karas described her impressions about the 8th World Congress, as follows: "Science is about new information - but we already have so much valuable information that doesn't get translated across disciplines. Biomedical scientists don't typically interact collegially with animal welfare scientists, and so on. This Congress represents an opportunity for people from many aspects of science, industry and animal interest to connect and listen respectfully with open minds. From my perspective, it was phenomenal to see the networking, sharing of information and brainstorming that went on at this gathering of minds. It is also phenomenal to see the change in the type of attendee, the content, and the energy from the first Congress I attended until this one." Dr. Karas went on to explain her work related to this award. "Two decades ago, if one wanted to assess or treat pain and distress in animals, whether in the research, clinical veterinary or food animal arena, there was so little information out there. Members of both the American and European Colleges of Veterinary Anesthesiology had begun to address pain control - as had other veterinary specialties and an international cadre of animal welfare scientists. I simply followed their work, and shared what I knew with the laboratory animal community. I thought - if we are translating from animal studies to humans, why can't we see if we can apply the kinds of things that help humans or companion animals to laboratory animals? As I talk with individuals and audiences today, I am really impressed with the almost insatiable interest and level of commitment to improving how we treat animals, and what is and is not acceptable."


Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) Recognition Award

The CAAT Recognition Award, presented at every World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences, honors an organization or individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of the Three Rs, the development of alternative methods, or the field of in vitro science.

This year, two scientists were recognized with the CAAT Recognition Award for their outstanding contributions to the field of alternative methods and the 3Rs, Dr. Kevin Crofton and Dr. Manfred Liebsch.

Dr. Kevin Crofton from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made valuable contributions through his research in the field of in vitro methods for neurotoxicology and developmental neurotoxicity research and testing. Dr. Crofton responded that "I am very honored to get this award. It provides an acknowledgement that the EPA has been, and continues to be, committed to developing new efficient alternative methods to screen chemicals that may interfere with neurodevelopment. And I must give most of the credit to a group of dedicated EPA researchers who are doing all the cutting edge research in this area. These include, Dr. William Mundy, Dr. Stephanie Padilla, and Dr. Tim Shafer."

Dr. Manfred Liebsch of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, Center for Alternative Methods to Animal Experiments-ZEBET in Germany also received the 2011 CAAT Recognition Award. Dr. Liebsch has contributed to scientific and policy developments in many areas, including the development and validation of alternative methods for ocular, skin, and developmental toxicity testing. Additional details on the awardees are provided in the CAAT press release.


Henry Spira Award

The Henry Spira Award was established in 1999 to honor the memory of Henry Spira, a pioneer in the animal rights movement whose campaign for the use of alternative methods led to the founding of CAAT. The Award was created to honor animal activists in the animal welfare, protection, or rights movements who work to achieve progress through dialogue and collaboration. It is administered by CAAT.

Ms. Emily McIvor, currently affiliated with the Humane Society International, UK, was recognized for her many contributions in the field of animal protection. "She has worked on animal welfare issues at European Union level for many years, specializing in the use of animals in research and testing." Ms. McIvor's contributions are further described in the CAAT press release.


Doerenkamp-Zbinden Foundation Award

The origins of the Doerenkamp-Zbinden Foundation lie in the award of a yearly prize for distinguished service to animal protection in science. In addition to scientists, persons in the fields of animal protection or philosophy and public persons may be awarded the Prize in so far as they have distinguished themselves in the sense of replacement and reduction of animal experiments. The 2011 prize is bestowed with CHF 25,000.

Professor Dr. Sonja Jeram of the National Institute of Public Health, Slovenia, was awarded the 2011 Doerenkamp-Zbinden Foundation Award. Dr. Jeram has conducted research on strategies to reduce the use of fish in ecotoxicity testing.


Dieter Lütticken Award

Merck Animal Health, a leading animal health company, offers the Dieter Lütticken Award to promote scientists or life science research institutions working in research areas that serve the Three Rs concept, i.e. reducing, refining, or replacing the use of animals in testing for development and production of veterinary medicines. The total funding for the award is €20,000.

The 2011 Dieter Lütticken Award was presented to Dr. Hans-Peter Ottinger from the Institute of Virology and Immunoprophylaxis, Switzerland, "for his trend-setting work on the development, optimization and standardization of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays in the extraneous agents testing of inactivated poultry vaccines." Further details on the award and Dr. Ottinger's research are available in the Merck Animal Health press release.


Dr. Ethel Thurston Scholarships

The American Fund for Alternatives to Animal Research (AFAAR) has awarded two scholarships of $2,100 each to doctoral students of merit who demonstrate a commitment to and priority interest in replacing the use of animals in research and teaching. The Awards are in support of their participation in the WC8 and are made under the direction of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society to honor AFAAR's founder, the late Dr. Ethel Thurston.

AFAAR and NEAVS provided the following descriptions of their awardee's contributions:

The first of this year's scholarships was granted to Róber Bachinski, a PhD student at the Sérgio Arouca National School of Public Health in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for his work in developing an in vitro test to measure enzyme activity, contributing to future replacement of animal testing in neurotoxicology. Mr. Bachinski expressed his long history of being committed to non-animal methods: "My research is only on in vitro methodology... When I was an undergraduate, I was the first student in Brazil who arraigned its university to not use animals in education. Afterwards, I began a project on replacement strategies to animal use in education and research... Today we need to develop new methods to replace animal use in science. Thus I chose [to do my] research on [these] methods." He adds that one of his goals is to help other compassionate students who are committed to doing science without harming animals: "I help many students who need information on conscientious objection to experimentation classes, encouraging new projects on alternatives to education and to experimentation, and talking to teachers and students on alternatives."

The second Ethel Thurston Scholarship was awarded to Mario Landys Chovel, a PhD student at the Finlay Institute in Havana, Cuba, for his work in developing alternative methods to reduce, refine, and replace animal use in vaccine testing. Mr. Chovel says, "I have 14 years experience in the preclinical and the quality control of vaccines and I am a witness of the huge amount of animals (mainly mice, guinea pigs, and rabbits) still used in test methods of doubtful relevance, high variability and not acceptable robustness or with a great level of stress and pain for the animals. The introduction and development of in vitro tests...will contribute to eliminat[ing] the [animal] methods in the field of the quality control of vaccines, or at least to dramatically reduce the suffering and the amount of animals used in the routine tests."


Willy van Heumen Award on Alternatives

The Willy van Heumen Award is a €25,000 prize offered every two years by the Foundation for the Advancement of Animal Alternative, which is based in The Netherlands. The name of the prize refers to the Foundation's founder. Candidates for the Award are selected in close cooperation with ZonMw, the major grant-giving organization in the field of medical research in The Netherlands.

The 2011 Willy van Heumen Award recognized the achievements of Prof. Dr. Johan W. M. Heemskerk and his team led by Dr. Judith Cosemans of Maastricht University, The Netherlands, "for his research into in vitro models for detecting risk factors for heart attacks and haemorrhages." Prof. Heemskerk's research resulted in the development of a flow chamber test that mimics blood vessel function for the assessment of platelet activity and blood coagulation. The in vitro flow chamber test is capable of replacing "a significant part of the stressful live animal testing." Prof. Heemskerk presented his research at WC8. He plans to use the prize to further miniaturize the test to achieve even greater reduction in animal numbers. The award and Dr. Heemskerk's recognized project are further described in the Maastricht University press release.


The Eighth World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences Poster Awards

Six poster awards of $1000 each were presented during the August 25 plenary session. Recipients were selected during the WC8 by members of the Alternatives Congress Trust. An award was given to one poster in each of the WC8 Themes (except for Theme I where two awards were presented). Awardees were selected based on the quality of the presentation, the scientific merit of the work on which the poster is based, and the contribution of the work to further the implementation of Replacement, Reduction, or Refinement of animal use. The WC8 Poster Awards have been made possible through the generous support of the Doerenkamp-Zbinden Foundation.

The Six Poster Awardees at WC8:

I-1-676: Pertussis toxin content of acellular vaccines assessed by in vitro cAMP responses.
Authors: M.E. Hoonakker (1,2), N. Ruiterkamp (1), C.F.M. Hendriksen (1,2)
Affiliations: (1) Bilthoven, Netherlands; (2) Utrecht, Netherlands

I-10-597: Air/liquid interphase technique as an alternative in-vitro testing strategy for detecting biological effects of volatile compounds. First results and future perspectives of an ongoing prevalidation study.
Authors: L. Smirnova (1), R. Pirow (1), M. Liebsch (1), J. Tharmann (1), A. Luch (1), M. Bauer (2), C. Graebsch (2), G. Linsel1, R., Siemers (1), C. Otto (1), S. Tröller (1), N. Müller (1), E. Berger-Preiß (3), H. Kock (3), A. Oertel (3), D. Ritter (3), J. Knebel (3)
Affiliations: (1) Berlin, Germany; (2) Leipzig, Germany; (3) Hannover, Germany

II-1-471: Americans' attitudes toward animal testing: 2001-2011.
Authors: J.R. Goodman (1), C.A. Borch (2), E. Cherry (3)
Affiliations: (1) Washington DC, USA; (2) Birmingham, USA; (3) Purchase, USA

III-3-215: Outcomes of efforts of Mahatma Gandhi-Doerenkamp Center (MGDC), India, to replace animal dissections in life science and biomedical science education.
Authors: G.G.H.A. Shadab (1), M.D. Zeeshan (2), F. Kunnathodi (2), M.A. Akbarsha (2)
Affiliations: (1) Aligarh, India; (2) Tiruchirappalli, India

IV-1-061: Assessment of post-surgical pain in mice using species-typical burrowing behavior.
Authors: P. Jirkof, N. Cesarovic, A. Rettich, M. Arras
Affiliation: Zurich, Switzerland

V-1-193: Development of an integrative approach for the prediction of systemic toxicity: combination of cell toxicity, pharmacological and physical chemical properties.
Authors: R. Note (1), H. Nocairi (1), M. Thomas (1), L. Bourouf (1), J. McKim Jr (2), G. Ouédraogo (1), J.R. Meunier (1)
Affiliations: (1) Aulnay-sous-Bois, France; (2) Kalamazoo, USA


The Eighth World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences Travel Grants

The WC8 provided 24 Travel Grants to students and young scientists whose abstracts had been selected for either oral or poster presentation. The WC8 Travel Grants were awarded based on (i) the quality of the work proposed for the oral or poster presentation; and (ii) the particular needs expressed by the applicant. Due to lack of space, the Travel Grant recipients will not be individually described.


Sources

Award recipient announcement: http://data.ccac.ca/dl/WC8%20Awards%20Grants%20banner%20300dpi.pdf

Final Programme of the Eighth World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences (source for award descriptions): http://www.wc8.ccac.ca/files/WC8_final_program_web.pdf

Personal communications with awardees, as indicated

Press releases: CAAT; HSUS; Maastricht University; Merck Animal Health

WC8 Secretariat