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EPA Awards Nearly $850,000 to Johns Hopkins University to Advance Research on Alternative Methods to Animal Testing

Grant is part of $4.25 million to universities on heels of memo from Administrator Wheeler to prioritize agency efforts to reduce animal testing

09/11/2019
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BALTIMORE ­ The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $849,276 to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, as part of a total of $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. Furthering these efforts, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a memo yesterday titled, “Directive to Prioritize Efforts to Reduce Animal Testing.”

“The memo directs the agency to aggressively reduce animal testing, including reducing mammal study requests and funding 30% by 2025 and completely eliminating them by 2035,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We are also awarding $4.25 million to advance the research and development of alternative test methods for evaluating the safety of chemicals that will minimize, and hopefully eliminate, the need for animal testing.”

“Johns Hopkins University has long been an important partner to EPA in conducting research to protect human health, as well as helping tackle global environmental challenges through their research and academic programs,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio.  “We congratulate the university for being selected to contribute to the field of research on alternatives to animal testing.”

“For nearly 40 years, the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing’s mission has been to promote humane science and human-relevant, modern approaches in the field of toxicology and risk assessment. I’m glad to be part of the Center’s team and working in the field of alternatives for a decade,” said Dr. Lena Smirnova, Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing.

Johns Hopkins University will use the grant to develop a test strategy based on a human cell-derived brain model to assess the mechanism by which environmental chemicals might cause developmental neurotoxicity and to screen the chemicals for their developmental neurotoxicity potency.

Administrator Wheeler has called for the agency to aggressively pursue a reduction in animal testing. The memo states, EPA will reduce its requests for, and funding of, mammal studies by 30% by 2025 and eliminate all mammal study requests and funding by 2035. Any mammal studies requested or funded by EPA after 2035 will require administrator approval on a case by case basis. It directs leadership and staff in the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and the Office of Research and Development 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.

In accordance with the memo, EPA will hold an annual conference on new approach methods beginning in 2019.

To read the full memo, visit https://www.epa.gov/environmental-topics/administrator-memo-prioritizing-efforts-reduce-animal-testing-september-20-2019.

Background

EPA has already made significant efforts to reduce, replace and refine the agency’s animal testing requirements. Objective 3.3 of the FY2018 – FY2022 U.S. EPA Strategic Plan outlines a commitment to further reduce the reliance on animal testing within five years under both statutory and strategic directives. For example, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which amended the Toxic Substances Control Act, requires EPA to reduce reliance on animal testing. Also, Objective 3.3 of the FY2018 – FY2022 U.S. EPA Strategic Plan outlines a commitment to further reduce the reliance on animal testing within five years. Over 200,000 laboratory animals already have been saved in recent years as a result of these collective efforts.

Five university grants were awarded through the agency’s Science to Achieve Results Request for Application Advancing Actionable Alternatives to Vertebrate Animal Testing for Chemical Safety Assessment. 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.

Grantees also include:

  • 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 cellar responses to environmental toxicants with a focus on reproductive disorder in women.
  • Oregon State University to develop in vitro test methods for fish species to screen chemicals in complex environmental mixtures.
  • University of California Riverside to use human cells to develop a cost-effective endpoint to characterize potential skeletal embryotoxicants.

For more information on EPA’s grant recipients, visit: https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/recipients.display/rfa_id/642/records_per_page/ALL.