The European Union Reference Laboratory for alternatives to animal testing (EURL-ECVAM) was established (2011) due to the increasing need for new methods to be developed and proposed for validation in the European Union. 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 the validation of methods which reduce, refine or replace the use of animals for safety testing and efficacy/potency testing of chemicals, biologicals and vaccines. Research laboratories are able to submit to EURL ECVAM for scientific validation the alternative methods to animal testing that they have developed.
EURL ECVAM also promotes the development and dissemination of alternative methods and approaches, their apEURL-ECVAMplication in industry and their acceptance by regulators.
The European Commission's involvement in activities targeted to the validation of alternative approaches to animal testing started in 1991, with the launch of ECVAM (the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods), hosted by the Joint Research Centre, Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP). As from 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 centres in Europe. The meeting was called by EURL-ECVAM which is the EU joint centre 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 centres vary greatly in terms of structure, affiliation with official functions, focus areas and financing. Some centres 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, whereas others, such as the Danish centre, are mainly public-sector organisations. Despite the differences, it was also clear that there was an obvious potential for collaboration and thus for strengthening the effort at international level.
Six topics of interest to all participants/centres were identified. They will form the basis for further discussions on any future joint efforts. The Danish 3R-Center’s board will be represented in all six discussion groups. The six topics are:
- Identification of priorities for reducing the number of laboratory animals in biomedical research - including 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, recognition has emerged that laboratory animals are still
necessary in many cases and cannot yet be replaced entirely. Therefore, their conditions must be as good as at all possible (refinement).
As is the case for the Danish 3R-Center, some centres already focus intensely on refinement, while others are in the process of strengthening the efforts in this area in their organisation.