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Environmental Factor

November 2011

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Stokes presents at international conference on animal models and drug testing

November 2011

NICEATM Director William Stokes

NICEATM Director William Stokes (Photo courtesy William Stokes)

Rear Adm. William Stokes, D.V.M., director of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM ( Exit NIEHS), traveled to New York to speak on "Best Practices for the Use of Animals in Toxicological Research and Testing." Stokes addressed attendees at a conference on "Animal Models and Their Value in Predicting Drug Efficacy and Toxicity" ( Exit NIEHS Sept. 15-16 at the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS).

The goals of the meeting were to provide participants an opportunity to examine the traditional role of animal models in drug discovery, the strengths and weaknesses of the animal models, and ways in which to reduce, refine, and replace animal models in biomedical research. The conference was organized by The Global Medical Excellence Cluster (GMEC) and NYAS, in collaboration with Imperial College London( Exit NIEHS and King's College London( Exit NIEHS. NIEHS, the National Center for Research Resources, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provided support for the conference.

Responsible use of animals as models of human disease and injury

Laboratory animals are used as models of human disease and injury in the development of new medicines and vaccines. However, disease or toxic injury can often result in significant pain and distress, and such studies can involve large numbers of animals. Welfare concerns have led to national policies and laws in the United States and other countries to ensure the humane care and use of laboratory animals, and to require the consideration of ways to reduce, refine, by decreasing or eliminating pain and distress, and replace animal use before studies are approved.

Stokes' address focused on advances in science and technology that have been applied to develop new testing methods and strategies that can reduce, refine, and in some cases replace animal use. Scientific advances are also helping to reduce uncertainties in extrapolating from animal models to humans. The continued development and appropriate use of scientifically sound testing methods are expected to further improve animal welfare and support improved health for people, animals, and the environment.

“A better understanding of disease and injury at the cellular and molecular levels is allowing us to identify earlier in vivo and in vitro markers of those diseases and injuries,” Stokes noted. “These biomarkers can lead to development of non-animal tests that will allow us to reduce or even replace animal use for some studies. They may also serve as the basis for earlier humane endpoints to avoid or reduce pain and distress in animal studies.”

Stokes, a laboratory animal veterinarian, has made animal welfare a focus of his career.  He is a board-certified diplomate of the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine and charter diplomate of the American College of Animal Welfare. He has been recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Society of Toxicology, the Humane Society of the United States, and other organizations for his contributions to laboratory animal medicine and enhancement of animal welfare.

A comprehensive open access multimedia conference report will be made available on the NYAS website later this year ( Exit NIEHS).

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