How can we stimulate the use of alternatives to animal testing in Belgium?

Innovative methods and technologies can help to replace and/or reduce the use of laboratory animals in biomedical research and regulatory testing. They are also referred to as 'New Approach Methodologies (NAMs)' and include, amongst others, in vitro, in silico and in chemico methods. Due to their rapid development pace, (young) scientists may face difficulties in finding relevant, reliable, and up-to-date information on NAMs in a fast and efficient way.

In order to facilitate the search for information, the RE-Place project was launched in 2017 as a Flemish initiative, and it is now a joint collaboration with the Brussels Government. RE-Place is an independent, scientific project which aims to centralize all available expertise on the use of NAMs in Belgium in one open access database, available via www.re-place. RE-Place offers a reliable and up-to-date inventory where each method is associated with the name and affiliation of the scientist who has developed and/or uses the NAM. By providing a direct point of contact, RE-Place encourages networking activities among the Belgian scientific community. In March 2023, the database contained over 230 methods from various research disciplines, submitted by 161 experts from 28 different (research) institutes.

RE-Place organizes initiatives to promote the use and development of NAMs, and to increase the knowledge on these methods. For example, on the 27th of March 2023, a study day on animal testing and alternatives was organized in collaboration with Brussels Environment. During that day, three speakers from the RE-Place database were invited to present their work. Other events (including educational webinars) are planned in the near future. In addition, the existing know-how on NAMs is also promoted via the RE-Place social media channels and website. These initiatives help Belgian scientists to increase the visibility of their work and expertise on NAMs, allowing them to reach a bigger target audience.

RE-Place is thus a great tool for scientists, ethical committees, regulators, and the authorities to learn more about what is today scientifically feasible with NAMs. On the other hand, it supports scientists to set-up new collaborations and accelerate networking activities. Both activities will help to build trust in the use of NAMs and support the replacement of animal testing in the long term.

Authors

Maude Everaert(1,2), Mieke Van Mulders(1,2), Vera Rogiers(1*) and Birgit Mertens(2*)

Organisations

In Vitro Toxicology and Dermato-cosmetology, Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)(1), SD Chemical and Physical Health Risks, Sciensano(2). * These authors have contributed equally to this work and share last authorship.

Presenting author

Maude Everaert , Scientific collaborator , Vrije Universitet Brussel (VUB)
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