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Animals used for scientific purposes


The EU Reference Laboratory for alternatives to animal testing, EURL ECVAM

The European Commission's first initiative focusing on 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). This was followed by the formal establishment of the European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing, EURL ECVAM, in 2011. Its legal basis is laid out in Directive 2010/63/EU, with the objective of coordinating and promoting the development and use of alternatives approaches in the areas of basic and applied research and regulatory testing.

EURL ECVAM has a long tradition in the validation of methods which replace, reduce or refine the use of animals for safety testing and efficacy/potency testing of chemicals, biologicals and vaccines. Research laboratories are able to submit alternative methods that they have developed to EURL ECVAM for evaluation whether the method is ready to enter a 'formal' validation. Moreover, finalised validation studies performed by industry or other stakeholders can be submitted to ECVAM for evaluation and scientific peer review by EURL ECVAM's Scientific Advisory Committee, ESAC. Many of these validated methods have been taken up into EU law and in international programmes, such as the OECD Test Guideline Programme and the European Pharmacopoeia.

EURL ECVAM is tasked to:

  • Co-ordinate and promote the development and use of alternatives including in the areas of basic and applied research and regulatory testing;
  • Co-ordinate the validation of alternative approaches at EU level;
  • Act as a focal point for the exchange of information on the development of alternative approaches;
  • Set up, maintain and manage public databases and information systems on alternative approaches and their state of development and
  • Promote dialogue between legislators, regulators, and all relevant stakeholders, in particular, industry, biomedical scientists, consumer organisations and animal-welfare groups, with a view to the development, validation, regulatory acceptance, international recognition, and application of alternative approaches.

A number of supporting, complimentary networks have been set up to facilitate pooling of resources and to ensure common and coherent strategic approach to advance alternatives. Each of these networks has a specific role to play in the chain to accelerate the development, validation, regulatory acceptance and uptake of new alternative approaches in the EU, as well as worldwide. The co-ordination of these networks is assured by EURL ECVAM.

Watch the videos:

Introduction to the work of EURL ECVAM


Scientists from EURL ECVAM show you what they are doing to advance safety assessment of chemicals without relying on animal testing


EURL ECVAM's Information Systems

The ready access to suitable and adequately described (in vitro and in silico) methods is a prerequisite for their use within decision making processes by regulators for safety assessments or by any end-user in the topic area of biomedical sciences and toxicology. The European Commission's Joint Research Centre has established the DataBase service on Alternative Methods, DB-ALM, and the QSAR Model Database to provide comprehensive information on alternative and advanced methods. Both databases provide factual and evaluated information in the form of standardised method descriptions, and information related to the methods, at all stages of development, validation or regulatory acceptance.

The EURL ECVAM Tracking System on Alternative methods towards Regulatory acceptance, TSAR is a tool aimed at providing a transparent view on the status of alternative methods as they progress from purely scientific protocols submitted for eventual validation to being actively used in a regulatory context. This tracking system intends to cover all steps, from the initial submission for validation until final adoption by inclusion in the EU legislation and/or related Guidance Documents, when appropriate.