A roadmap to replace animal use in U.S. safety testing was highlighted at the May 25 public forum of the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM).
Representatives of federal agencies invited the public to the annual meeting, held at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, to provide input on alternative approaches for testing potentially hazardous chemicals and products.
A goal without a plan is just a wish
The timeliness of the meeting was underscored when just two weeks later Congress passed The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, amending the Toxic Substances Control Act. The new bill, signed into law by President Obama June 22, requires EPA to promote development of nonanimal tests and develop a strategic plan to reach that goal.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish,” said National Toxicology Program (NTP) scientist Warren Casey, Ph.D., quoting the author Antoine de Saint-Exupery. “It’s not enough to say that we hope one day to move away from animal testing. We need to get very specific and figure out exactly how we’re going to do it.”
Casey, who directs the NTP Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM), said the proposed roadmap is critical to ensuring that efforts to develop new testing systems, such as organs-on-a-chip, will result in meaningful reductions in animal use.
He invited public input on the roadmap and noted that its development will be the main focus of the September meeting of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Alternative Toxicological Methods, an ICCVAM advisory group.
Progress on reducing animal use
According to ICCVAM co-chair and EPA scientist Anna Lowit, Ph.D., EPA is already making progress towards goals outlined under the new act. She summarized the commitment by the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs to reinvent the so-called six pack — a set of acute toxicity studies required for pesticide registration. EPA is exploring opportunities to waive required tests or replace them with alternative methods.
Lowit also shared her excitement about an international workshop planned for this fall, at which regulators will seek to reach agreements about use of nonanimal methods for skin sensitization testing.
A new ICCVAM member agency
Elijah Petersen, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Material Measurement Laboratory, described institute activities relevant to the ICCVAM mission, including its approach to identifying sources of variation in biological assays and expertise in instrument calibration. His institute will be the committee’s 16th member agency.
Casey welcomed NIST and expressed enthusiasm about the capabilities the institute would bring. “This is what we should have been doing ten years ago,” he said, with regard to identifying sources of variation. “[In some assays] we just don’t know where the variability is coming from.”
Comments from stakeholder groups praised recent progress by ICCVAM and member agencies towards replacing required animal tests with alternatives. Several commenters suggested future activities and areas for increased focus.
ICCVAM, which organized the meeting, posted a video of the meeting and presenters’ slides on the NTP website.
(Catherine Sprankle is a communications specialist for ILS, the contractor supporting NICEATM.)