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IC-3Rs Symposium – Follow-up report

The online symposium on ‘Human-relevant models for drug research and development’, organized by the „Innovations Center 3 R Alternatives” (IC-3Rs) in cooperation with BIO Clustermanagement NRW GmbH, successfully took place on October 7th and 8th. The more than 400 registered participants from 36 nationalities highly participated in the question-and-answer session showing how important and highly discussed this topic is.

The symposium dealt with questions such as ‘Which methods do exist to replace animal experimentation?’, ‘How can we reduce the number of animals used?’ and ‘How can we refine experiments to improve animal welfare?’.

The speakers from regulatory institutions, industry and academia gave a great overview of the current situation and an outlook to future possibilities. The participants learned which challenges alternative methods face and where they can already be used. Although regulators do not yet accept all methods available as an alternative to animal experimentation, they can be used to address different questions on e.g., human risk assessment prior to approval procedures, and thereby reducing animal experiments. Further, databases were presented in which new approach methodologies are collected in order to centralize the knowledge and increase trust in these new techniques.

One method presented in the symposium is the use of organ-on-chips. They contain living engineered organ substructures in a controlled microenvironment recapitulating different aspects of the organ’s dynamic. In future, they might be used for toxicity testing, drug discovery or personalized medicine. With comparisons of human and rat organ-on-chips, researchers achieved a major promising step towards an improved assessment of potential species similarities and differences of certain toxicity findings observed.

Another interesting approach is the use of human stem cells. As shown during the symposium, they could be used on the assessment of developmental toxicity and thereby identifying the teratogenic potential of new chemicals and drug; but also to manufacture sophisticated functional tissues in vitro to address issues like long-term toxicity.