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Progress towards ensuring safety without animal testing

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Aug 29, 2014
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SEURAT-1's latest progress report (4th of a series): "Towards the replacement of in vivo repeated dose systemic toxicity testing"

The EU's biggest ever initiative on alternative testing, SEURAT-1, presented its latest progress report (downloadable below) at the 9th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences held in Prague this week.

As a key partner in this major research consortium, the European Commission Joint Research Centre has contributed to achievements which include well characterised biological models for in vitro high throughput assays, novel ‘omics and high throughput in vitro based approaches for the identification of toxicity pathways. The idea behind alternatives to animal testing is to predict adverse outcome based on mechanistic knowledge and in vitro evidence rather than observing effects on test animals. Research on ‘omics methods – which include genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabonomics – focused on trying to identify critical alternations in genomic, proteomic or metabolic activities. This would lead to understanding how a chemical might damage genetic code or disturb the functionality of a cell.

seurat-1-4th-report-launchThe SEURAT-1 project COSMOS, bringing together expertise from industry, SMEs, academia and regulatory agencies from across Europe as well as the USA, has developed the COSMOS DB, designed primarily as a resource for the modelling efforts and deriving Thresholds of Toxicological Concern (TTC).

Another SEURAT-1 project, ToxBank, has developed the ToxBank Data Warehouse as a platform for data sharing (primarily in vitro data, including those produced in 'omics experiments) both within the consortium and publically. The platform also hosts data originating from related initiatives cooperating with SEURAT-1 (e.g. the ToxCast and the Tox21 programmes in the US), and is now freely available. A demo has been provided during the Congress.

Three years after its launch, SEURAT-1 initiated an important proof-of-concept exercise, where JRC has also a leading role, to demonstrate the real potential of the tools and knowledge generated across the consortium for supporting new approaches to safety assessment. This exercise will also help identify gaps and will indicate where future research efforts should concentrate.

The JRC's European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EURL ECVAM) contributed to the organisation of the scientific programme of the Congress, in particular to the theme on "Global cooperation, regulatory acceptance and standardisation", one of nine themes of the conference covering all aspects of alternatives and animal use.


Photo: Launch of the SEURAT-1 Report at the World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences in Prague (WC9). Courtesy COSMOS.