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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

September 2018

Replacing animal testing — progress and challenges

Environmental Factor spoke with Warren Casey, Ph.D., on progress and challenges in reducing and replacing animals in safety testing.

The Biennial Progress Report of the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM) summarizes U.S. government activities to reduce and replace animal use for chemical safety testing.

The August 2018 report was compiled by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM). Environmental Factor spoke with NICEATM Director Warren Casey, Ph.D., who reflected on ICCVAM’s recent successes.

logo of ICCVAM The U.S. Congress established ICCVAM in 2000. The committee includes 16 federal agencies, with NTP as the lead.

EF: What was ICCVAM’s most important accomplishment during the last two years?
Casey: Without question, it was the Strategic Roadmap for Establishing New Approaches to Evaluate the Safety of Chemicals and Medical Products in the United States.

That is a long title, but the inclusion of both “chemicals” and “medical products” explicitly is important. One of the lessons we have learned is that we have to work across sectors. Each has information that can benefit other groups.

EF: What else has ICCVAM learned through developing the Strategic Roadmap?
Casey: We have realized that to get people to use alternatives to animal testing, we need to get regulators talking early on to the people developing new test methods, to make sure the new methods meet the regulators’ needs.

Regulators also need to communicate their information needs to their stakeholders, the companies they regulate. Three words kept coming up in developing the roadmap — communication, collaboration, and commitment.

EF: So, is there something in the Biennial Report that shows us what that looks like in practice?
Casey: There are a few things. One approach for replacing animal use is in tests for chemicals that can cause allergic contact dermatitis. Representatives of several of our agencies worked together with their stakeholders and with their international counterparts to develop nonanimal approaches to identify these chemicals.

These approaches are now on track for international acceptance, and EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] announced this past April that they would accept data from these approaches for pesticide active ingredients and new chemicals registration.

Another big part of the picture is reducing animal use. That can be accomplished through waivers, where regulatory agencies clearly communicate that there are circumstances under which testing does not need to be done.

EPA issued a waiver for acute toxicity testing for pesticide registration, and USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] has done it for specific types of vaccine testing.

Warren Casey Casey directs NICEATM, which provides scientific and administrative support for ICCVAM. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

EF: What role has NICEATM played in all of this?
Casey: ICCVAM is an interagency committee. It does not have a budget, or a staff, or a laboratory. ICCVAM does most of its work through workgroups — people from different agencies coming together to work towards a common goal. NICEATM provides support for these workgroups, whether by handling logistics for meetings or doing research or analyses to answer questions that the workgroups come up with.

Additionally, NICEATM provides resources that anyone interested in alternative methods can use. One of our recent accomplishments was the launch of ICE, the Integrated Chemical Environment. ICE provides curated data and interactive tools that anyone can use to do things like develop new testing strategies or compare methods to each other.

EF: What challenges will ICCVAM face in the next two years?
Casey: ICCVAM developed the Strategic Roadmap because we realized that we needed new approaches to achieving acceptance of nonanimal tests. A big part of achieving acceptance is validation — demonstrating that a testing approach answers the question it is supposed to answer.

We are going to be discussing new approaches to validation at ICCVAM’s advisory committee meeting in September, and then at an international meeting in October.

We also understand that public-private partnerships are important. We need to develop procedures for government agencies to work with all their stakeholders, in both the nonprofit and commercial sectors, so people can comfortably share their insights and experiences. I would be happy to receive input [from your readers] on how we can do better at that.

(Catherine Sprankle, NICEATM Communications Specialist, works for ILS, the contractor supporting NICEATM.)

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