A new initiative to expedite the development of alternatives to animal testing has been launched in the US.

The five-year plan aimed at further reducing, refining and replacing (the ‘3Rs’) the use of animals in research and regulatory testing was unveiled at a symposium in Bethesda, Maryland to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM).

The plan was drawn up by ICCVAM and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicology Methods (NICEATM) – the NTP office at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) that administers ICCVAM – in conjunction with federal agency programme offices.

As the NIEHS noted, a cornerstone of the five-year plan is “the formation of partnerships with industry and other national and international stakeholders to achieve measurable progress”. NICEATAM director William Stokes said the ICCVAM would emphasise the use of new technologies to develop predictive systems less reliant or not at all reliant on animals.

Technologies promoted by the National Research Council and the NTP, such as high-throughput screening and toxicogenomics, will be “studied and incorporated where they can to provide more accurate and timely public health decisions”, the NIEHS added.

A high priority for ICCVAM will be to focus on evaluating alternatives to test methods that use a large number of animals or that may involve significant pain and distress. These include safety tests for eye injuries, skin damage and acute poisoning, as well as tests for biologics such as vaccines.

The five-year plan may be accessed online at http://iccvam.niehs.nih.gov/docs/5yearplan.htm.