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Replacing animal testing challengeOrganization logo: Utrecht University

About this course

10 million animals every year are used for scientific purposes. A similar number of laboratory animals are bred every year for science but never actually used. If we stop animal testing today, how would the world look like? Video When we buy food or drinks in the supermarket, we can assume that these products are not harmful to our health. If you take a look around your kitchen, there is a big chance that all the food and drinks you find has at some point been tested on animals. Food safety research not only tests the final product, but looks at the whole production process: ingredients, chemicals, flavoring, packaging materials and the machines used to produce the food or drinks: Simply everything to do with food has been tested on animals. Is there a way to change this situation? Next to food safety control, animal testing is also mandatory for vaccine batch control. The Netherlands has embraced the objective of striving to phase out the regulatory required animal testing. For example, vaccine batch control involving animal testing is still mandatory for some types of vaccines. To phase out animal testing, animal-free methods have to be developed. What have we learned from situations such as the covid pandemic? What are the hurdles? What are the opportunities? How industry, research institutions and control authorities should collaborate in order to introduce animal-free methods? Problems in using animals are both practical and fundamental. To date, tests on animals are central to human medicine and food safety. During the first steps of drug development and toxicity screening, animals are used to identify promising and safe compounds, but the obtained results are hard to translate to the human situation. As these substances are further refined, they undergo a variety of animal tests. In the final step before research in humans, animals are used in toxicity testing to determine whether these drugs show an appropriate balance of safety and efficacy. Despite this systematic use of animals in the various stages of preclinical research, 95% of the pharmaceuticals that show promise in preclinical animal research and proceed to human clinical trials however fail to make it to market and to patients waiting for a cure. Both fundamental and practical problems related to the use of animals for producing medicine are heavily discussed by industry, academia and government. It is particular challenging for biopharmaceutical companies and start-ups to overcome the hurdle between research and actual release of new therapies and food compounds. This hurdle is called for different reasons the “valley of death”. Can we innovate this complex ecosystem of medicine production (large companies, startups, universities, research centers) and cross the “valley of death” without using animals? To accomplish this, we have to start focusing on educating the next generation of researchers and educators. The course is in collaboration with Proefdiervrij NL. Students from TU/e and WUR can register for this challenge via EduXchange.nl Assessment: Students will work in a multi-disciplinary student team on a real-life challenge for which finding a solution requires the creative co-creation of new knowledge across the boundaries of existing practices (individual track 30%, group track 70%). The challenge is closed with an event during which the product is put to a test. During this closure event one or more teams will be selected as ‘winning contributors’. During this challenge there will be 4 physical full day events. These will start with a kick-off on Wednesday the 16th of February ’22, followed by events on Friday the 18th of March ’22 and Wednesday the 11th of May ’22, and the final event on Friday the 1st of July ’22. Online workshops and meetings will be scheduled on Wednesday and Friday afternoons. *This challenge has limited spots available. This means that when you register for this challenge, you’ll be placed on a waiting list. A month prior to the challenge we’ll let you know if you can join the challenge (latest by the 17th of January). Don’t be shy, give it a try!

Expected learning outcomes

  • Analyze the context of a real-life problem and distinguish the most relevant elements for designing a solution;

  • Assess opportunities offered by the existing state-of-the-art technologies and solutions and identify areas for innovation, relevant for solving a real-life challenge;

  • Gathering, selecting and analyzing information, tools and techniques and integrating this into final project deliverables in terms of process and content at an academic level;

  • Discuss and defend their viewpoints and conclusions in a feasible, professional and academically correct way;

  • Set and reflect on personal learning goals based on their expertise and that of other team members and stakeholder, in a cyclic manner leading to future reflections and actions.

Course requirements

Enrollment details