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Environmental Factor, July 2012

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NICEATM seeks comment on draft plan for 2013–2017

By Debbie McCarley and Cathy Sprankle

NTP Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM) Report cover

The NTP Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM) is taking public comments until Aug. 13 on a draft five-year plan developed in collaboration with the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM). ICCVAM is an interagency committee of the federal government that NICEATM administers. The plan is available on the NICEATM–ICCVAM website.

The document will provide strategic direction for NICEATM and ICCVAM during 2013–2017. It outlines how, consistent with ICCVAM’s statutory duties and purposes, NICEATM and ICCVAM will contribute to the transformation of safety testing, by fostering and promoting the incorporation of scientific advances and innovative technologies into new improved test methods, and integrated testing and decision strategies.

ICCVAM was established to promote development, validation, and regulatory acceptance of new toxicology and safety testing methods. New test methods that take advantage of advances in technology can better characterize the safety and potential hazards of chemicals and chemical products, which in turn can provide better protection of people, animals, and the environment. New test methods also provide the opportunity to use fewer or no animals for chemical safety testing, or to enhance animal well-being, and lessen or avoid pain and distress in those cases where animal testing is still necessary.

In 2008, NICEATM and ICCVAM published a five-year plan for 2008-2012. The plan described ICCVAM’s vision to play a leading role in fostering and promoting the development, validation, and regulatory acceptance of scientifically sound alternative test methods, both within the federal government and internationally.

Responding to the fact that the time period covered by the current five-year plan was coming to a close, last November, NICEATM published a request for comment on development of a five-year plan for 2013-2017. Comments received were considered, as NICEATM worked with an ICCVAM subcommittee in early 2012 to develop the draft plan that was released last month.

“Recent advances in emerging science and technology innovations are driving transformative changes in toxicology and how safety testing is performed,” noted ICCVAM vice chair Joanna Matheson, Ph.D., of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, who is chairing the ICCVAM subcommittee. “For example, data from in vitro testing batteries and integrated decision strategies, that consider chemical and toxicological database information, are becoming more important to regulatory decision-making. The next five years will be an essential transition period for NICEATM and ICCVAM in this changing regulatory toxicology environment.”

“In developing this plan, we recognize the need to be able to take advantage of advances in science and technology that will take place over the next five years,” commented Rear Adm. William Stokes, D.V.M., who is director of NICEATM. “We want to best position NICEATM and ICCVAM to promote and help translate the incorporation of new science into improved and innovative test methods that better characterize the safety or hazard of new chemicals and products. These improved methods will better protect people’s health, and are also expected to reduce and replace animal use in testing.”

The draft 2013–2017 Five-Year Plan is available on the NICEATM–ICCVAM website. The five-year plan will be discussed at the September meeting of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Alternative Toxicological Methods. Those wishing to submit a comment on the plan may do so via a form on the NICEATM–ICCVAM website, or via email to, by Aug. 13, so that the advisory committee can consider public comments in their review of the draft plan.

(Debbie McCarley is a special assistant to Stokes. Cathy Sprankle is a communications specialist with ILS, Inc., support contractor for NICEATM.)

Call for comments

A notice announcing the availability of the draft plan was published on June 13 in the Federal Register. The draft plan describes four broad strategic opportunities for NICEATM and ICCVAM to foster and promote development, validation, and regulatory acceptance of scientifically sound alternative test methods by the federal government and other organizations.

  1. Promote the application and translation of innovative science and technology, to develop predictive alternative test methods and efficient and predictive integrated testing and decision strategies.
  2. Advance alternative test methods and testing strategies, through new evaluation activities for focus areas initially identified in the 2008-2012 five-year plan and new focus areas for 2013-2017.
  3. Facilitate regulatory acceptance and use of alternative methods, through high-quality test method evaluations and effective outreach and communication.
  4. Develop and strengthen partnerships with the broad range of ICCVAM stakeholders.

NIEHS and NICEATM invite comments on the draft plan from all ICCVAM stakeholders. In addition, comments are sought on how NICEATM and ICCVAM can most effectively contribute to the evolving transformation of safety testing. Stakeholder comments will be considered in finalizing the draft plan, prior to planned publication in December 2012.

Questions about NICEATM and ICCVAM activities can be addressed to William Stokes, D.V.M., director of NICEATM (see contact information below). Copies of documents mentioned in this update can also be obtained by contacting NICEATM.

Contact Information:; phone 919-541-2384; fax 919-541-0947.

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