Highlights of the European Commission’s scientific conference on animal replacement
The European Commission (EC) organized a scientific meeting themed “Towards replacement of animals for scientific purposes” which took place on the 2nd and 3rd of February 2021. During the conference, to which over 1000 people participated, the EC provided an update on their strategic work plan towards animal replacement and the impact of transparency on animal use thereupon. Also newly developed alternative methods were presented, and the role of education and training on 3Rs was highlighted. The conference report and recordings of the presentations will be made available on the EC’s website shortly.
Increasing transparency to accelerate transition towards non-animal science
Following the Member States reports on the implementation of Directive 2010/63/EU, the EU has committed to become a world leader in transparency on animal use for scientific and educational purposes. The EC wants to build trust by increasing the accuracy and objectivity on information submitted in the scope of Non-Technical Summaries (NTS), by increasing the speed of publication thereof, and making the submitted information available via open science. This will help to get a better understanding of animal use in the EU, allow to identify the areas where the implementation of 3Rs could be improved and help to direct efforts towards animal replacement more efficiently.
European initiatives to promote Open Science and Education on alternatives
A new open access database (ALURES) will contain data of the NTS and statistics on animal use from all different Member States. The database is being created in accordance with the EU Regulation 2019/1010 which amends the EU Directive 2010/63 after several issues linked with the reporting, reviewing, quality and access of data were identified.
A new online platform, Open Research Europe (ORE), will be created to provide immediate open access to original articles from EU-funded research. The official launch of the platform is planned in March 2021
EOSC-Life provides an open, digital and collaborative space for biological and medical research where fair data can be managed, stored and reused in the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). This online platform can help tackle the reproducibility crisis and support external validity.
The Education and Training Platform for Laboratory Animal Science (ETPLAS) offers four e-learning modules on the implementation of 3Rs under Directive 2010/63. Currently, two additional modules on the use of non-animal alternatives are being developed, and they are expected before the summer of 2021. These modules are clearly linked to the EU Directive, and are suited for self-learning, or can be incorporated into a broader training framework.
Scientific advances and bridging the gap with regulators
Both academic institutions and industry have successfully developed, tested and validated non-animal models within their respective (research) domains. Examples include ‘Physiologically Based Kinetic’ (PBK) model predictions for quantitative in vitro to in vivo extrapolations, anatomical models for educational purposes in veterinary sciences, in silico models across different sectors, organ-on-a-chip technology and 3D human tissue models for drug testing and disease modelling and many more. A lot of these new technologies have also been used in research towards COVID-19, and EU funding has been made available via Horizon 2020. However, in order to promote their regulatory acceptance, regulators and other stakeholders, should be involved early on in the development process, and tailored training opportunities should be foreseen for developers, end-users, regulators and policy makers.