The European Union Reference Laboratory for alternatives to animal testing (EURL-ECVAM) was established in 2011. Its establishment was necessitated due to an increasing need for new methods and their proposal for validation within the EU. EURL ECVAM is hosted by the Joint Research Centre, Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP) located in Italy.
EURL-ECVAM has a long tradition in validating methods which reduce, refine or replace the use of animals for safety testing and potency testing of chemical and biologicals (including vaccines). Research laboratories, which have developed methods that are alternatives to animal testing, are able to submit these methods to EURL ECVAM for scientific validation.
EURL ECVAM also promotes the development and dissemination of alternative methods and approaches.
The European Commission’s involvement in activities targeted towards the validation of alternative approaches started in 1991, with the launch of ECVAM (the European Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods). The launch was hosted by the Joint Research Centre, Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP). As of 2011, ECVAM’s tasks are assigned to EURL ECVAM.
The Danish 3R-Center participated in the first joint meeting for 3R centres in Europe
In April 2015, the Danish 3R-Center participated in the first joint meeting for 3R centers in Europe. The meeting was called by the European Union Reference Laboratory and EURL-ECVAM, the latter of which is the EU joint center for validating alternative methods and the European Union Reference Laboratory.
In addition to employees from EURL-ECVAM, the meeting was attended by representatives from centres in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, the UK and Romania – the latter had just established a 3R centre. Even though it is evident that a number of EU member states are still missing, it still goes to show that the idea of building dedicated 3R centres is gaining ground.
The meeting was held in an atmosphere of openness and cooperation and resulted in the following conclusions: Existing 3R centers vary greatly in terms of structure, affiliation with official functions, focus areas and financing. Some centers should be considered NGOs that attempt to strengthen 3R developments for private funding. Others are more scientifically based and often located at universities, receiving various degrees of government support. There are also centers, such as the Danish center, which are mainly public-sector organizations. Despite the differences, there was an obvious potential for collaboration and the strengthening of effort on an international level.
Six common topics of interest were identified. They will form the basis for further discussions concerning any future, joint efforts. The Danish 3R-Center’s board will be represented in all six discussion topics. They are as follows:
- Identifying priorities in order to reduce the number of laboratory animals in biomedical research. This includes addressing concerns with respect to the increasing use of transgenic animals.
- Communication and dissemination
- Promoting the use of alternative methods/models as a biotechnical resource – including characterisation and standardisation
- Education and training
- Validation in relation to legislative recognition
- Research support awarded by 3R centres
The refinement trend that was already evident at the World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences in Prague in 2014 continued at this meeting. While the main focus was previously on developing alternatives to laboratory animals, it has become evident that laboratory animals are still necessary in many cases and cannot yet be replaced entirely. Therefore, in respect to the principle of refinement, their conditions must be as good as possible.
As is the case for the Danish 3R-Center, some centres already focus intensely on refinement while others are in the process of strengthening their efforts within this area.