Preclinical CRO Harlan has been signed up by European Commission project focused on reducing the number of animals used in research.
Harlan’s German unit Cytotest Cell Research will join a network of research labs tasked with creating guidance documents, training materials and tools that to promote animal-free alternatives for scientific research as spokeswoman Stefania Ghelli explained.
She told Outsourcing-pharma.com that: “Our function as one of the test facilities within EU-NETVAL network is to provide support for EURL ECVAM in the validation of alternative methods which have the potential to reduce, refine or replace animals used for scientific purposes on the basis of our knowledge and experience.”
Ghelli added that the work will be funded by the European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing (ECVAM), which is setting up the laboratory network in response to a European Commission request for help in the development of new testing methodologies.
Currently there are a total of 14 members of EU-NETVAL, including 13 test facilities from EU Member States plus the European Commission's own in vitro good laboratory practices (GLP) test facility, which coordinates the network.
What impact the research will have on drug development is unclear because, as Ghelli acknowledged, while alternative tests are used to assess things like cytoxicity, phototoxicity and genotoxicity, before they enter human trials they must be examined in animal studies as a regulatory requirement.
We also asked Harlan if it is worried that its involvement in the project would lend weight to animal rights groups that criticize [unfairly in Outsourcing-pharma.com's view] contract research organizations (CRO) for conducting ‘unnecessary’ animal research during drug development.
Ghelli told us that: “We are not concerned that our work will have a negative impact on CROs because there is commitment of the pharmaceutical industry to the three R’s” and reiterated that “alternative methods are well accepted and used when appropriate.”