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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On August 3, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $3,980,782 in funding to five academic research teams to develop New Approach Methods (NAM) for evaluating chemical toxicokinetics.  According to EPA, compared to traditional animal testing, NAMs allow researchers better to predict potential hazards for risk assessment purposes without the use of traditional methods that rely on animal testing.  EPA is providing a grant of up to $800,000 to each research team through its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program.  EPA states that the projects will address gaps in ways to obtain data for informing chemical toxicokinetics and exposure-related factors not currently considered.  The five recipients include:
  • Purdue University to create an integrated blood brain barrier computer model to help determine if a chemical may cause neurotoxicity;
     
  • Texas A&M University to help integrate different types of chemical safety testing for more robust results;
     
  • University of Nevada to develop better estimations of the bioavailability of chemicals to assess the significance of public exposure;
     
  • Vanderbilt University to work on methods to refine organ-on-chip devices for chemical testing; and
     
  • Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to determine how zebrafish metabolism can be better correlated to the human metabolism to improve models for chemical toxicity testing.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
On June 24, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a New Approach Methods (NAM) Work Plan that will “serve[] as a roadmap for meeting its animal testing reduction goals set forth in Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s 2019 Directive.”  According to EPA’s June 24, 2020, press release, the Work Plan describes how EPA plans to develop, test, and apply chemical safety testing approaches that reduce or replace the use of animals.  EPA states that compared to traditional animal testing, NAMs allow researchers better to predict potential hazards for risk assessment purposes without the use of traditional methods that rely on animal testing.  The objectives of the Work Plan include:

  • Evaluating regulatory flexibility for the use of NAMs;
     
  • Establishing baselines and metrics for assessing progress;
     
  • Developing NAMs that fill critical information gaps;
     
  • Establishing scientific confidence in NAMs;
     
  • Demonstrating NAMs application to regulatory decisions; and
     
  • Engaging with stakeholders to incorporates their knowledge and address their concerns regarding EPA’s phaseout of mammalian testing.

EPA states that the Work Plan will evolve as EPA’s knowledge and experience grow and as outside experts offer their perspectives and contributions.  EPA will regularly review the Work Plan to ensure that the efforts involved provide the best path to success.  More information on the 2019 directive to prioritize efforts to reduce animal testing is available in our September 11, 2019, blog item, “EPA Administrator Signs Directive Intended to Reduce Animal Testing, Awards $4.25 Million for Research on Alternative Methods to Animal Testing.”
 


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on January 15, 2020, that it is partnering with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Physicians for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to host public webinars on various topics related to reducing, refining, or replacing vertebrate animal testing.  A webinar will be held on January 22, 2020, covering the use and application of the Collaborative Acute Toxicity Modeling Suite (CATMoS), a free resource for screening organic chemicals for acute oral toxicity.  Drs. Nicole Kleinstreuer and Kamel Mansouri will discuss the development of and demonstrate CATMoS, which was developed during a project in which the National Toxicology Program (NTP) Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM) and the EPA National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT) collected a large body of rat oral acute toxicity data and made these data available to project participants.  Participants built several models that were then used to generate consensus predictions for the acute oral toxicity endpoints of interest to regulatory agencies.  The webinar will offer a walk-through of how to use the modeling suite to generate acute oral toxicity predictions for chemicals of interest.  EPA notes that it “does not necessarily endorse the views of the speakers.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will host its first annual conference to discuss alternative test methods and strategies to reduce animal testing on December 17, 2019, in Washington, D.C.  According to EPA, the conference will bring together some of the leading voices in environmental and health research to discuss efforts to reduce testing on mammals.  The conference will focus on the New Approach Methods (NAM) and will feature presentations by U.S. and international scientific experts on advancements in the field.  On-site participants will have the opportunity to exchange information about scientific advancements in the NAMs field to develop a better understanding of the state of the science, discuss approaches for developing scientific confidence in using alternatives, and summarize existing studies characterizing the uncertainties in results from animal testing.  The public can register to participate via webinar.
 
As reported in our September 11, 2019, blog item, on September 10, 2019, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a directive to prioritize efforts to reduce animal testing.  The directive states that EPA “will reduce its requests for, and [its] funding of, mammal studies by 30 percent by 2025 and eliminate all mammal study requests and funding by 2035.  Any mammal studies requested or funded by the EPA after 2035 will require Administrator approval on a case-by-case basis.”
 
EPA notes that over the past several years, it has made significant scientific advancements in NAMs and has led efforts to reduce, replace, and refine its animal testing requirements.  On December 5, 2019, EPA updated the list of NAMs that it developed pursuant to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended by the 2016 Lautenberg Chemical Safety Act.  EPA states that it “will continue to lead the way among federal agencies in the United States and internationally.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a press release on September 10, 2019, announcing that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a directive to prioritize efforts to reduce animal testing.  Administrator Wheeler also announced $4.25 million in funding to five universities to research the development and use of alternative test methods and strategies that reduce, refine, and/or replace vertebrate animal testing.  Administrative Wheeler directs the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) and the Office of Research and Development (ORD) “to prioritize ongoing efforts and to direct existing resources toward additional activities that will demonstrate measurable impacts in the reduction of animal testing while ensuring protection of human health and the environment.”  The directive states that EPA “will reduce its requests for, and [its] funding of, mammal studies by 30 percent by 2025 and eliminate all mammal study requests and funding by 2035.  Any mammal studies requested or funded by the EPA after 2035 will require Administrator approval on a case-by-case basis.”  Administrative Wheeler requests that OCSPP and ORD hold a joint animal conference on new approach methods (NAM), with the first conference to be held in 2019
 
Five universities were awarded grants through EPA’s Science to Achieve Results Program.  According to EPA, the research focuses on advancing the development and use of alternative test methods and strategies to reduce, refine, and/or replace vertebrate animal testing.  The grantees are advancing the science of non-vertebrate alternative test methods and strategies in chemical hazard assessment.  The grantees include:

  • Johns Hopkins University to develop a human-derived brain model to assess the mechanism by which environmental chemicals might cause developmental neurotoxicity;
     
  • Vanderbilt University to test their organ-on-a-chip to study the blood brain barrier and potential brain injury after organophosphate exposure;
     
  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center to use their Endo Chip technology to research how preexisting diseases affect cellular responses to environmental toxicants with a focus on reproductive disorders in women;
     
  • Oregon State University to develop in vitro test methods for fish species to screen chemicals in complex environmental mixtures; and
     
  • University of California Riverside to use human cells to develop a cost-effective end point to characterize potential skeletal embryotoxicants.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham, M.S.

On April 11, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it was partnering with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) International Science Consortium to host a public webinar related to meeting the goal of reducing, refining, or replacing vertebrate animal testing as stipulated in the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act that amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), specifically New Approaches for Respiratory Sensitization, set for April 24, 2019, at 10:00 a.m. (EDT)Registration is required.  The speakers are Steve Enoch, Ph.D., Liverpool John Moores University, who will be presenting “Chemistry-based Approaches for Identifying Respiratory Sensitizers”; and Arno Gutleb, Ph.D., Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, who will be presenting “In Vitro Models to Identify Respiratory Sensitizers.”

The two other webinars in this Webinar Series on the Use of New Approach Methodologies (NAM) in Risk Assessment already took place; the first one was Skin Sensitization Testing and the second one was MPPD and CFD Modeling to Predict Dosimetry of Inhaled Substances.  EPA states that these webinars on the use of New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) in Risk Assessment are part of EPA meeting commitments identified in EPA’s Strategic Plan to Promote the Development and Implementation of Alternative Test Methods, required by amended TSCA.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On March 7, 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft Strategic Plan to Promote the Development and Implementation of Alternative Test Methods to reduce the use of vertebrate animals in chemical testing, fulfilling another milestone under the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act that amended the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Under amended TSCA, EPA is required to develop a strategy to promote the development and implementation of alternative test methods and strategies to reduce, refine or replace vertebrate animal testing by June 22, 2018.  EPA states the draft document incorporates input from a November 2017 public meeting held on the development of the draft strategy, as well as written comments submitted after the meeting, and draws upon EPA research on test methods.

The draft strategy outlines EPA’s Strategic Plan for the reduction of testing in vertebrates for chemicals regulated under TSCA. The organizing framework for the EPA’s strategy to reduce vertebrate animal testing relies heavily on what have been termed new approach methodologies (NAM) -- a broadly descriptive reference to any nonanimal technology, methodology, approach, or combination thereof that can be used to provide information on chemical hazard and risk assessment.  The strategy describes a multi-year process with incremental steps for adoption and integration of NAMs that are appropriate and fit-for-purpose for making TSCA decisions, and has three core components:

  • Identifying, developing, and integrating NAMs for TSCA decisions;
  • Building confidence that the NAMs are scientifically reliable and relevant for TSCA decisions; and
  • Implementing the reliable and relevant NAMs for TSCA decisions. The EPA has identified seven current/near-term (less that three years) needs and activities.

EPA states that completing these activities will result in moving towards four intermediate-term (three to five years) objectives and these time frames, needs, and activities provide the basis for developing NAMs, establishing reliability and relevance criteria for the NAMs, and implementing NAMs to inform decisions made under TSCA.

Comments on the draft strategy will be due 45 days after the notice of availability is published in the Federal Register.  EPA has scheduled a public meeting to obtain input on the draft strategy for April 10, 2018, from 9:00 a.m. (EDT) to 5:00 p.m. (EDT) in Washington, D.C.  Registration is available online and is requested by April 3, 2018.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

On October 26, 2017, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would be hosting a public meeting on November 2, 2017, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (EST) to obtain input from interested parties and the public on its development of a Strategic Plan to promote the development and implementation of alternative test methods and strategies to reduce, refine, or replace vertebrate animal testing.  EPA is required under Section 4(h) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), as amended, to develop this Strategic Plan by June 22, 2018.  EPA states that it “will consider input from the meeting and from written comments to develop a draft Strategic Plan that will be shared with the public for comment.”

EPA has posted materials for the meeting to inform the Strategic Plan and that can be used for discussion and comment on its website, including:

EPA is requesting input about the draft Strategic Plan to be shared during the meeting and in the form of written comments that may be submitted to Docket No. EPA-HQ-OPPT-2017-0559 on www.regulations.gov; comments must be received no later than 60 days following the meeting.  Registration for the meeting and further information is available on EPA’s Alternative Test Methods webpage.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Margaret R. Graham

The amended Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has ushered in new developments in testing strategies.  In March 2017, Andre E. Nel, Ph.D. (Division of NanoMedicine, Department of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, California (UCLA); California NanoSystems Institute, UCLA (CNSI)) and Timothy F. Malloy (CNSI; UCLA School of Law; UCLA Center on Environmental and Occupational Health) published Policy reforms to update chemical safety testing:  TSCA reform empowers EPA to use modernized safety testing in the United States, in the Journal Science.  This article discusses this new “paradigm” in testing, which it states relies “largely on nonanimal, alternative testing strategies (ATS), uses mechanism-based in vitro assays and in silico predictive tools for testing chemicals at considerably less cost.”  There are technological and institutional challenges, however, that the article addresses, but the authors state they hope to provide a “cautious but hopeful assessment of this intersection of law and science.”   

The article describes five iterative components that make up the elements of ATS:  conceptual pathways; biomolecular events; screening and modeling; integrating evidence; and regulatory applications.  These components work together to inform four types of regulatory decisions: “screening to identify chemicals and nanomaterials for more extensive testing and evaluation; ranking or prioritization for further action; qualitative or quantitative risk management in support of risk management; and comparative evaluation of the hazards and risks of different substances in support of safer design.” 

Amended TSCA Section 4(h)(2) implements alternative testing methods to “promote the development and timely incorporation of new scientifically valid test methods and strategies that are not based on vertebrate animals,” and Section 4(h)(2)(A) directs EPA, by June 2018, to develop a strategic plan that will promote the development and implementation of alternative test methods and strategies to reduce, refine or replace vertebrate animal testing and provide information of equivalent or better scientific quality and relevance for assessing risks of injury to health or the environment of chemical substances or mixtures….” 

The article states that while the amended statute seems to be only “procedural in nature” in terms of the implementation of ATS, as the statute compels EPA to facilitate development of ATS but does not obligate the agency to adopt it, two factors bode well for ATS implementation: (1) various EPA offices as well as its partner entities are “already engaged in bringing ATS into the regulatory context”; and (2) as amended TSCA mandates EPA to prioritize chemicals already in the marketplace for safety evaluations, by “specified enforceable deadlines,” which incentivizes the broader EPA chemical regulatory program to “adopt ATS for prioritization and subsequent risk evaluation of chemicals deemed high priority.”  The article references EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD), the Office of Science Coordination and Policy (OSCP), the new chemical review program, and EPA’s partner entity the National Toxicology Program Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods as those entities engaged in ATS implementation.  


 

The American Chemical Society (ACS), together with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) and Honorary Co-Hosts Representatives Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), through ACS’ Science & the Congress Project have announced that they will be hosting a panel on “Alternatives to Animal Testing:  Emerging Uses and Policy Implications” on Tuesday, September 13, 2016, from Noon - 1:30 p.m. on Capitol Hill at the Cannon House Office Building in Room 340.  The panel will cover new and evolving non-animal based technologies and science that are being used to advance toxicology and safety testing and improve prospects in biomedical research, and will discuss how to robustly develop and incentivize adoption of these new methods, followed by an audience Q&A.  Lunch will be provided.  The moderator and panelists include:

  • Pamela Frasch, J.D., Lewis & Clark Law School (Moderator);
  • Warren Casey, Ph.D., National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences  and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program;
  • Amy Clippinger, Ph.D., PETA International Science Consortium Ltd.;
  • Paul A. Locke, J.D., Dr. P.H.,  JHSPH;
  • Pamela J. Spencer, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., Scientific Director of Toxicology and Environmental Research & Consulting, The Dow Chemical Company.

Registration for the panel is available online