The end of animal testing in America?
Not so fast…
President Biden created a buzz when he signed a law, eliminating the requirement to test a drug or medical device on animals before testing their effectiveness and safety in humans. But the road is still long and winding, as non-animal technologies still need to be proven as an effective tool for evaluating both safety and effectiveness.
As part of the FDA efforts to support its Toxicology Working Group in advancing the goals of identifying new technologies that could potentially improve toxicity predictivity as well as to support animal 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement), the agency formed the Alternative Methods Working Group. This program focuses on opportunities for evolving and innovative technologies to advance useful tools for testing the effectiveness and safety of therapeutic products, such as microphysiological systems (MPS).
One example of such systems are organoids, self-organized, three-dimensional tissue cultures derived from stem cells, that can divide indefinitely and form tiny structures that resemble miniature organs composed of many cell types. Researchers have been able to produce organoids that resemble the brain, kidney, lung, intestine, stomach, and liver, with many more on the way.
Another subset class of MPS is organs-on-a-chip, which consists of a miniaturized physiological environment engineered to yield and/or analyze functional tissue units capable of modeling targeted organ-level responses.
In contrast to the US, the principle of the 3Rs has been present in spirit in EU legislation, from as early as 1986, and it was made a legal requirement in 2010 in Directive 2010/63/EU.
From our experience and correspondence with both the FDA and EMA, the latter seems much more committed to the 3Rs approach around in vivo testing. The EMA will more often accept proof of concept studies solely based on in vitro or in silico tests and may require only rodents for toxicological studies, not just for biologicals.
Let’s hope the FDA will manage to commit to this advanced approach sooner than we assume 😉
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