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Alternative testing strategies

The development of tests for efficacy and safety of drugs and therapies and safety of chemicals is high on the research agenda. To a large extent this is still being done with methods using animals. To boost the implementation of the 3Rs Principle (replacement, reduction, refinement of animal tests), the subject of new testing methods without animals has been part of the European RTD Framework Programmes for more than 20 years. The main financial contributions to this area were made by different Environment and Health Programmes. Health and Environment share the need for non-animal models for drug development, chemical toxicity and ecotoxicology, and product safety assessment, be it for food additives, cosmetics or any other substance or mixture with potential risks for consumers' health.

Over the last 20 years, 200 million have been spent under the umbrella of the Three Rs principle starting in the late 80ies.

At present the Health Programme funds research projects in the field of 'integrated testing strategies', cell-based technologies, "omics", bioinformatics and computational biology, computational modelling and estimation techniques, and high throughput techniques in order to develop test methods which are better, faster, cheaper, and which have a higher predictive value than currently used animal tests.

The development of such methods is a prerequisite for the implementation of the 3RS principle, for the implementation of European policies (e.g. REACH Regulation, Cosmetics Directive) and to increase the competitiveness of Europe's industry. In 2009 the Health Programme of DG Research defined a long-term target, the Safety Evaluation Ultimately Replacing Animal Testing (SEURAT) with a five years goal, the development of a strategy to replace repeated dose systemic toxicity testing. Based on the knowledge achieved in previous projects, this research initiative will develop the "building blocks" for "SEURAT" through the funding of six integrating projects and one tailor-made coordinating action. The EU financial contribution will be 25 million; the European Cosmetics industry (Colipa) is committed to financially contribute with the same amount.

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1. 9th EPAA Annual Conference "More Predictive Safety Science for a more Competitive Europe"
1. EURL ECVAM's survey on in vitro methods for estimating human hepatic metabolic clearance/stability
2. SEURAT-1 meeting showcases new results and challenges in alternative methods to animal testing