Costs, scientific and ethical concerns related to animal tests for regulatory decision-making have stimulated the development of alternative methods. When applying alternative approaches, kinetics have been identified as a key element to consider. Membrane transporters affect the kinetic processes of absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) of various compounds, such as drugs or environmental chemicals. Therefore, pharmaceutical scientists have intensively studied transporters impacting drug efficacy and safety. Besides pharmacokinetics, transporters are considered as major determinant of toxicokinetics, potentially representing an essential piece of information in chemical risk assessment. To capture the applicability of transporter data for kinetic-based risk assessment in non-pharmaceutical sectors, the EU Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EURL ECVAM) created a survey with a view of identifying the improvements needed when using in vitro and in silico methods.
Seventy-three participants, from different sectors and with various kinds of expertise, completed the survey. The results revealed that transporters are investigated mainly during drug development, but also for risk assessment purposes of food and feed contaminants, industrial chemicals, cosmetics, nano materials and in the context of environmental toxicology, by applying both in vitro and in silico tools. However, to rely only on alternative methods for chemical risk assessment, it is critical that the data generated by in vitro and in silico methods are scientific integer, reproducible and of high quality so that they are trusted by decision makers and used by industry. In
line, the respondents identified various challenges related to the interpretation and use of transporter data from non-animal methods. Overall, it was determined that a combined mechanistically-anchored in vitro-in silico approach, validated against available human data, would gain confidence in using transporter data within an animal-free risk assessment paradigm. Finally, respondents involved primarily in fundamental research expressed lower confidence in non-animal studies to unravel complex transporter mechanisms