New 3Rs Centres in Europe and Canada

A European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) Science for Policy Report published in 2016[1], aimed at assessing the current situation regarding the sharing of 3Rs knowledge, identified that 3Rs centres have an important role in supporting and disseminating 3Rs approaches and creating valuable networks of different stakeholders to work towards alternatives to animal testing. In recent months, several new centres focused on the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) have been established in Europe and Canada.

The Government in Sweden has initially funded the Swedish 3Rs Centre for the period 2017-2020. This centre has been established as a response to the Swedish government review of how to most effectively progress the 3Rs in Sweden as part of the functions of the acting body of the Swedish National Committee for the Protection of Animals used for Scientific Purposes, which was founded as a requirement of Directive 2010/63/EU. The Swedish 3Rs Centre is not the only organisation involved in 3Rs activities in the country: as an example, the Swedish Fund for Research Without Animals (established in 1964) began providing research grants in 1971. Moreover, the Swedish Toxicology Sciences Research Center (Swetox) is one of the first research centres which based their work on the 3Ms (Mechanisms, Models and Markers) and 3Rs principles, and it established a unique collaboration between eleven Swedish universities.

In Belgium the Free University of Brussels has built upon its In Vitro Toxicology and Dermato-Cosmetology Department’s (IVTD’s) 25-year history of developing in vitro approaches to open the Innovation Centre 3Rs (IC-3Rs). The new Belgian centre’s goal is to increase the visibility of alternative methods by enhancing communication, building local networks and supporting the development of in vitro methodologies nationally and throughout Europe. IC-3Rs will compliment other 3Rs groups and initiatives based in Belgium such as: the International Society for In Vitro Methods (INVITROM), the  Eurogroup for Animals, the European consensus-platform for alternatives (ecopa) and the European Partnership for Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing (EPAA).

With the aim of promoting the principles of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement of animal experiments in scientific environments, the Italian Centro 3R was launched in December 2017. The centre is a collaboration between the University of Pisa and the University of Genoa and is the first European inter-university centre dedicated to promoting 3Rs principles in teaching and research. Membership of Centro 3R is open to all Italian universities and agreements for twinning across Europe and other countries are being pursued. At the inauguration EURL-ECVAM, also based in Italy, endorsed the centre and support was given by the IPAM – Italian platform for alternative methods, which was founded in May 8, 2003, by fourteen founding members belonging to four areas of interest: Government Institutions, Industry, Scientific World, Animal-centred Organisations and Animal Welfare. The aim of IPAM is promoting and spreading the culture of 3Rs, in its theoretical-applicative aspects, in scientific experimentation and in the regulatory field.

Outside of Europe, the University of Windsor has created Canada’s first ever institution dedicated to alternatives to testing on animals. The Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods (CCAAM) and its subsidiary the Canadian Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (CaCVAM) wish to “serve as the Canadian leader and nexus to promote alternatives through integrative human-centred initiatives. By developing transformative partnerships with academic, industry, government, and public sectors to develop, validate, and promote alternatives, we seek to transition the medical research, education, and toxicity testing communities away from the use of animals”. CCAAM is in addition to the 3Rs resources and information provided by a specialist section – the 3Rs Microsite – of the Canadian Council for Animal Care (CCAC) website. In Canada the CCAC is responsible for the oversight of scientific animal use.

These new establishments in conjunction with existing centres will provide increasing opportunities to effectively progress the 3Rs goals on a European and global scale.

All of the new centres have information websites:

[1] Holley T, Bowe G, Campia I et al (2016) Accelerating progress in the Replacement, Reduction and Refinement of animal testing through better knowledge sharing, EUR 28234 EN, doi:10.2788/243531.