In Belgium, about half a million laboratory animals are being used on a yearly basis for several scientific and educational purposes (1). Importantly, an increasing number of alternative methods to animal testing such as in chemico, in silico and in vitro are being developed. These are also referred to as 'New Approach Methodologies’ (NAMs). Unfortunately, the expertise on NAMs is extremely scattered and there is a lack of communication between different laboratories.
In 2017, the Flemish and Brussels regions initiated the project ‘RE-Place’ which aims to centralize the available knowledge in a database and make it more accessible to the public. An online tool has been developed in order to collect specific information on the NAMs that are currently being used. The requested information was originally based upon the template of ‘EURL ECVAM DataBase service on ALternative Methods to animal experimentation’ (DB-ALM), but was extensively adapted according to the feedback of the RE-Place steering committee members. These are experts from academia, industry and government institutions with extensive know-how in the field of NAMs.
By centralising the available expertise, it will be possible to identify the existing gaps and stimulate the development of new techniques, methods and strategies. The database can evolve into a broader platform where researchers will be able to connect with peers and partners to engage in new collaborations. RE-Place will allow knowledge sharing between different parties (scientists, regulators, industry, ethical committees, animal welfare bodies and the general public), support education and training, and promote the use of NAMs.
1: Animal Welfare, Department Omgeving, “Statistieken Proefdieren (België)”, consulted on 09/01/2019, https://www.lne.be/cijfers-en-statistieken-dierenwelzijn