Advisory committee on alternatives to animal testing looks forward
By Ernie Hood
At its annual meeting at NIEHS Sept. 2, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Alternative Toxicological Methods (SACATM) highlighted its recent progress in developing alternatives to traditional animal testing.
The time has now come to take the next step, according to Warren Casey, Ph.D., director of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM; see sidebar).
Creating a 3Rs roadmap
Casey and Brian Berridge, D.V.M., Ph.D., of GlaxoSmithKline, proposed the creation of a national roadmap to replace, reduce, or refine (3Rs) animal use and transform toxicity testing. “This is something much larger than ICCVAM, and much larger than the federal government,” said Casey. “It’s an incredibly complex proposition, but it’s also something that is absolutely necessary if we’re ever going to reach our goal.”
Both speakers cited the need for improved predictability of the effects of drugs and chemicals in humans. They also see opportunities to use computational and high-throughput assays to reduce animal use in some toxicological and drug safety and efficacy testing.
Those opportunities go hand in hand, said Berridge, at least in the drug development arena. “I have no doubt that if we can develop alternative ways of modeling that are more predictive and more efficient than what we do in animals, a decrease in animal dependence will follow,” he noted.
Casey also briefed the committee on many developments over the past year within NICEATM, including the creation of a new database that focuses on toxicants that produce subtle developmental effects. ICCVAM co-chair Anna Lowit, Ph.D., from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs, described progress in implementing the priority needs identified in the 2013 ICCVAM reinvention.
The priorities include evaluating test methods for acute toxicity, biologics, skin sensitization, and endocrine disruptors. Organizational priorities call for agencies to take a more active role in committee activities, streamline the number of projects, and improve communications and outreach efforts. “We can pat ourselves on the back a little bit, because obviously there’s been an enormous amount of success,” Lowit reported.
The advisory committee also heard updates from four federal agencies that have been very active with ICCVAM-related work — the U.S. Department of Agriculture, EPA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and NIEHS. At EPA, high-throughput and computational methods are contributing to an acceleration of the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. At NIEHS, a new small business cooperative agreements program has been announced to encourage validation and commercialization of approaches to reduce animal use in toxicity testing.
(Ernie Hood is a contract writer with the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)