Within the Dutch Research Agenda (NWA) 'Non-animal models: acceptance and implementation', three consortia will research on the acceptance and implementation of existing animal-free models. A total of about € 2.9mln has been awarded for this research. This programme is a collaboration between the Dutch Ministries of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W), Public Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK), Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), Defense (Def), ZonMw and NWO.

This programme focuses on the acceptance and implementation of existing animal-free models

This programme focuses on the acceptance and implementation of existing animal-free models in the safety assessment of substances for humans with associated legislation and regulations. People are exposed to numerous chemical substances on a daily basis, such as those found in medicines and the environment. In order to protect them against the possible dangers of these substances, a decent safety assessment is necessary. To date, laboratory animals are often used for this purpose. However, this use of laboratory animals is increasingly being criticised, both from a societal and scientific point of view. Think of animal welfare and the translatability of results from animals to people.

To stimulate the animal-free transition in scientific research, this NWA programme focuses on the acceptance and implementation of animal-free models at a regulatory, scientific and societal basis. In this way, we will achieve even more relevant research results for humans without the use of animals

ZonMw is realising this programme in collaboration with NWO.

Three multidisciplinary consortia will contribute to the animal-free transition

In the coming five year, three multidisciplinary consortia will contribute to the animal-free transition. The projects focus on the underlying causes of societal barriers, the acceptance of existing animal-free models by end-users and regulators, and the values of stakeholders and institutions on data from animal-free models. A budget of €955,000 has been set aside for each project.

The projects awarded funding, in alphabetical order, are:

Accelerating the transition to animal-free NGRA: A transformative governance approach
Projectleader: Prof. Ingrid Visseren-Hamakers (Radboud University)
Consortium: Radboud University, Utrecht University, TNO, TenWise, Johns Hopkins University, The Good Lobby, Prof. Howard White (consultant), Unilever, Eurogroup for Animals and PETA UK.
This research project analyzes how the acceleration of the transition to animal-free safety assessment can be governed. The project focuses on Next Generation Risk Assessment (NGRA), and on the transitions to animal-free safety assessment for chemicals and pharmaceuticals in the EU, the Netherlands, and the USA. The transdisciplinary consortium experiments with transformative governance approaches through action research.

Animal-free assays for endocrine disruption – from science to regulatory acceptance
Projectleader: Prof. Juliette Legler (Utrecht University)
Consortium: Utrecht University, RIVM, Charles River, KWR, Proefdiervrij, Maastricht University, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Brunel University London, INSERM Montpellier, INSERM Rennes, University of California Irvine, University Miguel Hernandez, PEPPER, OECD, Biopredic, Plastics Europe, Cosmetics Europe and UK Health Safety Agency.
It is not always possible to identify endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) which are harmful to our health. A combination of non-animal models, which jointly measure the effect of substances on hormonal systems in humans, could replace the use of animal testing. Before a model is accepted in regulation, it has to be determined whether it is predictable and reproducible. For this purpose, it must pass through a number of steps that make up the pathways to regulatory acceptance. This project will determine how regulatory acceptance and use of non-animal models for EDCs can be improved.

Valuing Testing: Valuing animal free testing in chemical safety assessments
Projectleader: Dr. Hans Bouwmeester (Wageningen University & Research)
Consortium: Wageningen University & Research, University of Groningen, Rathenau Institute, Shell, Unilever, Dutch Organ-on-Chip consortium and Medicines Evaluation Board of the Netherlands.
Animal-studies remain to be the gold standard to study human safety of chemicals. Several animal-free models have been developed, but more needs to be done to transition to only using animal-free models for these chemical safety studies. In this project we will study the ethical values of stakeholders and institutions and start a citizens dialogue to explore current barriers. We will compare simple cell models and complex models that resemble the liver to explore if these models can be incorporated in safety assessment procedures. Study designs will be discussed with stakeholders to optimize the likely of acceptance of data.

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