EU Science Hub

University Open Day on using alternative methods in research

3Rs Open Day at the University of Milano – Bicocca, Italy
3Rs Open Day at the University of Milano – Bicocca, Italy
May 06 2019

The Open Day was co-organised by the JRC and the University of Milano (Bicocca) as part of an initiative to introduce principles underpinning the Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement (the Three Rs) of animal experiments into university curricula.

A report of the Open Day, on the "Use of Alternative Methods: From Fundamental to Industrial Research", has just been published.  Intended as a series of related events, this first workshop was held on the 31 October 2018 at the University of Milano (Bicocca).

The purpose of the initiative is to equip future researchers, regulators and decision makers with the necessary understanding of alternative approaches to enable them to address research and testing needs with modern tools and techniques.

The overall aim is to accelerate the uptake of the Three Rs and to reduce the reliance on animal testing, in line with EU policy set out in Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes.

The relevance and novelty of the initiative was highlighted by the Rector of the University, Maria Cristina Messa, who opened the day. She spoke about both the educational content of the 3Rs Open Day and its cultural implications.

There is a growing recognition at the university that ethics is fundamental in all fields of research. Considerable efforts are being made by the university in this direction through the commitment and efforts of the ethical committee and the work and collaboration with the JRC and its EU Reference Laboratory for alternatives to animal testing (EURL ECVAM).

In this context, the need to move from the concept of the Three Rs to that of 4Rs (Reduction, Refinement, Replacement and Responsibility) was stressed.

The history of the Three Rs and their significance, and an overview of in vivo and in vitro models in neurosciences and their potential applications and limitations were introduced by JRC scientists. In the morning, examples of reduction, integrated testing strategies, and innovative in vitro assays in the context of environmental monitoring were given by speakers from academia and industry.

The practical experience of applying the 3Rs principles to animal experimentation was described by the President of the Animal Welfare Body as well.

Computational methods were the central topic of the afternoon, with a brief introduction to the use of quantitative structure activity relationship (QSAR) models, an overview of different case studies and collaborative projects, and advanced computational methods to investigate molecular mechanisms associated with toxicity effects.

The final part of the Open Day included a round table on “The business future working with alternative methods” in which representatives from academia and industry described their experience, and gave an idea of the future opportunities for careers involving alternative methods, especially addressed to the young students and researchers.

Read more in:

Urani, C., Bruschi, M., Casati, S. and Gribaldo, L. (2019) “Use of alternative methods: From fundamental to industrial research”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation, 36(2), pp. 320-321.