Stokes builds international partnerships for advancing alternative testing
By Debbie McCarley and Cathy Sprankle
Rear Adm. William Stokes, D.V.M., director of the NTP Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM), represented NIEHS and NICEATM at international scientific meetings in November. Stokes joined other scientists from around the world at meetings of the Japanese Society for Alternatives to Animal Experiments (JSAAE) and the advisory council of the Japanese Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods (JaCVAM). These meetings were part of a continuing effort to build global partnerships to advance alternatives to animal testing.
At the 24th annual meeting of the JSAAE Nov. 10–11 in Sendai, Japan, Stokes provided an update on recent progress and future planned activities of NICEATM and the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM), which NICEATM administers. Stokes’ presentation summarized NICEATM and ICCVAM contributions towards reducing, refining (enhancing animal welfare and eliminating or decreasing pain and distress), and replacing animal use for safety testing. The presentation also noted U.S. interagency efforts to accelerate development and use of more efficient safety testing approaches with the potential to better protect human health.
While at the JSAAE conference, Stokes attended a management team meeting for an ongoing study to evaluate a test method that uses human cells to identify substances with the potential to cause allergic contact dermatitis. Stokes and other meeting attendees received an update and provided feedback on current progress. Results of the study could support the use of this method to reduce or replace animal use. “Participation in validation studies to evaluate new test methods is an important aspect of our international interactions,” Stokes commented. “Collaboration in the earlier stages of test method development greatly increases the chances that we’ll later agree on recommendations on the appropriate uses of a new test method.”
A cornerstone of NICEATM’s international interactions
Stokes also provided JSAAE attendees with an overview of the International Cooperation on Alternative Test Methods (ICATM). ICATM is an international partnership among national validation organizations that promote the advancement of refinement, reduction, and replacement alternatives for animal testing. The European Union, U.S., Japan, Canada, and South Korea are currently members of the cooperation agreement. The ICATM partners cooperate and collaborate on test method validation studies, peer review of new test methods, and development of harmonized recommendations for how new test methods can be used.
ICATM coordination meetings take place several times a year and provide an opportunity for the five ICATM organizations to discuss activities in the three major areas of cooperation. The meetings are planned to coincide with meetings of the Society of Toxicology and other gatherings of mutual interest to the participant organizations. “These regular interactions allow the ICATM partners to develop good communications and working relationships, which support our collaborations on test method development,” noted Stokes.
Stokes participates in Japanese advisory council meeting
Another important interaction activity for the ICATM partners is liaison membership on one another’s advisory committees. Following the ICATM meeting, Stokes attended a meeting of the advisory council of JaCVAM, NICEATM’s counterpart organization in Japan. The meeting took place at the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare in Tokyo. The JaCVAM advisory council serves a similar role as the Scientific Advisory Committee on Alternative Toxicological Methods (SACATM). JaCVAM Director Hajime Kojima, Ph.D., attended the SACATM meeting in June.
While attending the JaCVAM advisory council meeting, Stokes presented an update of NICEATM-ICCVAM and ICATM activities and an overview of U.S. initiatives to reduce, refine, and replace animal use in testing, including outcomes of the recent NICEATM-ICCVAM workshop on alternative methods for rabies vaccine testing.
(Debbie McCarley is the special assistant to Rear Adm. William Stokes, D.V.M., director of NICEATM. Cathy Sprankle is a communications specialist with ILS, Inc., support contractor for NICEATM.)