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1 The European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EURL ECVAM)

1 The European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EURL ECVAM)

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J. Barroso et al.

Article required the Commission and the Member States to actively support the

development, validation and acceptance of AMs which could reduce, refine or

replace the use of laboratory animals and would provide the same level of information as that obtained in experiments using animals. This was followed by the formal

establishment in 2011 of the European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives

to Animal Testing (EURL ECVAM) due to the increasing need for new methods to

be developed, validated and regulatory accepted in the European Union. EURL

ECVAM’s legal basis is laid out in Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes. Under this Directive, EURL ECVAM’s mandate

has been broadened to cover the entire life cycle of AMs, i.e. from development

over validation to regulatory acceptance, international recognition and proper scientific use. The main duties and tasks of EURL ECVAM are:

• To co-ordinate and promote the development and use of alternatives including in

the areas of basic and applied research and regulatory testing;

• To co-ordinate the validation of alternative approaches at EU level;

• To act as a focal point for the exchange of information on the development of

alternative approaches;

• To set up, maintain and manage public databases and information systems on

alternative approaches and their state of development; and

• To promote dialogue between legislators, regulators, and all relevant stakeholders, in particular, industry, biomedical scientists, consumer organizations and

animal-welfare groups, with a view to the development, validation, regulatory

acceptance, international recognition, and application of alternative approaches.

EURL ECVAM is an integral part of the Joint Research Centre of the European

Commission. EURL ECVAM is embedded in the Chemicals Safety and Alternative

Methods Unit of the JRC. The JRC has extensive activities supporting the development and implementation of European Union chemicals policy. EURL ECVAM’s

main focus is on advancing safety assessment science using AMs to support regulatory decision making. EURL ECVAM comprises about 65 staff divided in three

competence groups focusing on Assay Validation, Predictive toxicology, and

Toxicity Pathways. EURL ECVAM also operates an in vitro Good Laboratory

Practice (GLP) test facility and a High Throughput Screening (HTS) facility. The

current work of EURL ECVAM is associated with five main themes:

Combined exposures and chemical mixtures

Integrated Approaches to Testing and Assessment (IATA)

Endocrine disruptors

Information systems supporting safety assessment and advancement of AMs

Standardization and international harmonization of AMs

EURL ECVAM has a long tradition in the validation of methods which reduce,

refine or replace the use of animals for safety assessment and efficacy/potency testing of chemicals, biologicals and vaccines. Validation is a key step towards the regulatory acceptance and use of a test method. The EURL ECVAM validation process

allows for consistency in the execution of all EURL ECVAM validation studies and


International Harmonization and Cooperation in the Validation of Alternative…


Fig. 14.1 The EURL ECVAM validation workflow. The process (blue) comprises four key steps.

Interactions with stakeholders (PARERE and ESTAF), ICATM and EU-NETVAL laboratories are

indicated to the left of the process. Key output documents on the right

comprises four key steps: (1) the assessment of a test method submission, (2) the

planning and conduct of a validation study, (3) the independent scientific peerreview of the validation study and its conclusions and (4) the development of an

ECVAM Recommendation on the validity status of the test method (Fig. 14.1).

During this process, EU regulatory experts (PARERE), stakeholders (ESTAF),

ICATM partners, the test method submitters and even the public are consulted at

key stages (see below for more details), so that their views but also their technical

and scientific input are taken into account to the extent possible. More detailed

information on the validation process can be found in Chap. 4 of this book.

Research laboratories can submit AMs that they have developed to EURL

ECVAM for scientific validation. Finalized validation studies performed by industry or other stakeholders can also be submitted to EURL ECVAM for evaluation and

eventual scientific peer review by EURL ECVAM’s Scientific Advisory Committee

(ESAC) (see: https://eurl-ecvam.jrc.ec.europa.eu/about-ecvam/scientific-advicestakeholders-networks/ecvam-scientific-advisory-committee-esac). The spontaneous submission process itself follows a two-step procedure, starting with a first

concise “pre-submission” that may be followed by a more extensive “complete submission” upon a positive assessment of the pre-submission by EURL ECVAM. In

the first step of the submission process, method developers are required to complete

a Test Pre-submission Form (TPF), which allows EURL ECVAM to perform a preliminary assessment of the status of development, optimization and/or validation of

the test method, its relevance for a human health(-related) or environmental effect,

and its potential impact on the 3Rs (replacement, reduction, refinement of animal


J. Barroso et al.

testing). Already during this preliminary assessment phase, EURL ECVAM may

consult its Advisory Structure, e.g. ESAC, the EURL ECVAM Stakeholder Forum

(ESTAF) (see: https://eurl-ecvam.jrc.ec.europa.eu/about-ecvam/scientific-advicestakeholders-networks/estaf-ecvam-stakeholder-forum), the EURL ECVAM’s

Network for Preliminary Assessment of REgulatory RElevance (PARERE) (see:

https://eurl-ecvam.jrc.ec.europa.eu/about-ecvam/scientific-advice-stakeholdersnetworks/parere) and ICATM partners, in view of collecting input on possible scientific issues and on the potential prioritization of the test method considering its

regulatory and stakeholder relevance (Fig. 14.1). After successful conclusion of this

first step, including a positive review of the TPF by EURL ECVAM, the test submitter is formally invited to complete a detailed Test Submission Template (TST).

Complete submissions can only be submitted after formal invitation by EURL

ECVAM and must be based on the EURL ECVAM TST. The complete submission

allows EURL ECVAM to do a comprehensive evaluation of the submitted method

and to take a final decision on whether the submitted test method qualifies for entering validation and at which stage of the EURL ECVAM validation process it may

enter. The structure of the TST follows the EURL ECVAM modular approach that

includes seven validation modules, i.e. (1) test definition, (2) within-laboratory

reproducibility, (3) transferability, (4) between laboratory reproducibility, (5) predictive capacity, (6) applicability domain, and (7) performance standards. The TST

thus allows for a comprehensive description of the test method’s status with respect

to its development, optimization and/or validation. The information submitted in the

TST also allows making decisions on the prioritization of the test method, which is

generally done in close dialogue with the EURL ECVAM Advisory Structure and

ICATM (Fig. 14.1). Ideally, test submissions are assessed in the context of EURL

ECVAM strategy papers that were, or are being defined in various toxicological

areas such as e.g. skin sensitization, genotoxicity, acute systemic toxicity, fish toxicity and toxicokinetics (see: https://eurl-ecvam.jrc.ec.europa.eu/eurl-ecvam-strategypapers). In defining these strategy documents, EURL ECVAM aims to be transparent

and explicit about the formulation of strategic aims and associated objectives, and

to be as inclusive as possible in taking into account the views and suggestions of

various stakeholders and ICATM partners.

Beside the normal test submission process mentioned above, EURL ECVAM

may also launch public calls for in vitro method nominations in areas identified as

of regulatory priority and where in vitro methods may have been sufficiently developed and optimized to enter the EURL ECVAM validation workflow.

Prioritized test methods may enter a validation study coordinated by EURL

ECVAM in order to assess their reliability and relevance for a particular purpose.

Validation studies (i.e. multi-laboratory trials) coordinated by EURL ECVAM are

performed, where possible, with laboratories of the European Union Network of

Laboratories for the Validation of Alternative Methods (EU-NETVAL).

EU-NETVAL was created by EURL ECVAM to address provisions in Directive

2010/63/EU whereby Member States of the European Union are requested to contribute to the validation of AMs. Currently there are a total of 37 members of

EU-NETVAL, selected against pre-defined eligibility criteria (including 36 test


International Harmonization and Cooperation in the Validation of Alternative…


facilities from EU Member States plus the European Commission’s own in vitro

GLP test facility operated by EURL ECVAM, which coordinates the network). In

agreement with EURL ECVAM validation principles and those outlined in Guidance

Document No. 34 of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

(OECD 2005), an international and independent Validation Management Group

(VMG) is set up by EURL ECVAM for each validation study to oversee all aspects

of the study. ICATM partners may propose VMG members and may participate

themselves in the VMG as observers to provide scientific, technical and regulatory

input. More detailed information on the design and conduct of a multi-laboratory

validation trial and EU-NETVAL can be found in Chap. 5 of this book.

EURL ECVAM also organizes and coordinates the scientific peer review of validation studies conducted or evaluated by EURL ECVAM. Completed validation

studies undergo independent scientific peer review by the EURL ECVAM Scientific

Advisory Committee (ESAC). Specialized Working Groups (WGs) of the ESAC

are set up on an ad hoc basis to prepare ESAC peer reviews and document their

findings in “ESAC WG Reports”. WGs are typically composed of ESAC members

and external scientists nominated by ESAC, EURL ECVAM and ICATM partners.

The output of ESAC consists in “ESAC Opinions” which summarize the scientific

advice given to EURL ECVAM.

At the end of the validation process, EURL ECVAM issues a Recommendation

on the test method (see: https://eurl-ecvam.jrc.ec.europa.eu/eurl-ecvamrecommendations). The aim of a EURL ECVAM Recommendation is to:

1. Provide EURL ECVAM’s views on the validity status of the test method in question, its mechanistic relevance, performance, limitations and applicability taking

into account the ESAC Opinion, EURL ECVAM’s own evaluation and other

relevant information;

2. Advise on possible regulatory applicability and proper scientific use of the test


3. Suggest possible follow-up activities in view of addressing knowledge gaps.

During the development of its Recommendations, EURL ECVAM consults

PARERE, ESTAF, other Commission services and its international validation partner organizations of ICATM (Fig. 14.1). EURL ECVAM also invites comments

from the general public and, if applicable, from the test method submitters before

finalising its Recommendations and publishing them on its website.

Following adequate validation demonstrating the usefulness and limitations of a

test method/approach, it may be considered for adoption by regulatory authorities.

Many of the AMs evaluated and/or validated by EURL ECVAM have been taken up

into EU law and in international programmes, such as the Test Guidelines Programme

(TGP) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Often, EURL ECVAM takes an active role in this process of regulatory acceptance

by taking leadership in the drafting of new or updated Test Guidelines and/or

Guidance Documents.

Of key importance is also the dissemination of information across stakeholders.

EURL ECVAM takes an active role in promoting the dissemination of information


J. Barroso et al.

on the development and validation of alternative methods and approaches, their

application in industry and their acceptance by regulators. A tracking system of

AMs towards regulatory acceptance provides an overview of all test methods that

were submitted to EURL ECVAM for validation and/or peer review from 2008 up

to now (see: http://ihcp.jrc.ec.europa.eu/our_labs/eurl-ecvam/test-submission).

This tracking system is currently under revision to add information on the validation

and regulatory acceptance process of submitted test methods.


The U.S. Interagency Coordinating Committee

on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM)

and the U.S. National Toxicology Program Interagency

Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological

Methods (NICEATM)

ICCVAM was first established as an ad hoc committee in 1994 in response to a

mandate to the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under the NIH

Revitalization Act of 1993 (Public Law 103-43, Sec. 205, pp. 25–27; accessible at:

http://history.nih.gov/research/downloads/PL103-43.pdf). Later in 1997, ICCVAM

was designated as a standing committee by the National Institute of Environmental

Health Sciences (NIEHS). In 2000, the ICCVAM Authorization Act (Public Law

106-545, 42 USC 285l-5; accessible at: http://history.nih.gov/research/downloads/

PL106-545.pdf) established ICCVAM as a permanent interagency committee of the

NIEHS under NICEATM. NICEATM was established in 1998 and is funded by

NIEHS through the National Toxicology Program (NTP). The NIEHS is one of the

27 institutes composing the NIH. NICEATM provides scientific and operational

support for ICCVAM.

ICCVAM is composed of representatives from 7 U.S. Federal regulatory agencies (Consumer Product Safety Commission, Department of Agriculture,

Department of the Interior, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection

Agency, Food and Drug Administration, and Occupational Safety and Health

Administration) and 8 U.S. Federal research agencies (Agency for Toxic Substances

and Disease Registry, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health,

National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences,

National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defence,

and Department of Energy) that require, use, generate or disseminate toxicological

and safety testing information. ICCVAM’s mission is to “facilitate development,

validation, and regulatory acceptance of new and revised regulatory test methods

that reduce, refine, and replace the use of animals in testing while maintaining and

promoting scientific quality and the protection of human health, animal health, and

the environment.” The ICCVAM Authorization Act of 2000 formally established the

mandate of ICCVAM, defining its purposes as follows:

• To increase the efficiency and effectiveness of U.S. Federal agency test method



International Harmonization and Cooperation in the Validation of Alternative…


• To eliminate unnecessary duplicative efforts and share experiences between

U.S. Federal agencies;

• To optimize utilization of scientific expertise outside the U.S. Federal


• To ensure that new and revised test methods are validated to meet the needs of

U.S. Federal agencies; and

• To reduce, refine, or replace the use of animals in testing, where feasible.

The ICCVAM Authorization Act of 2000 also directs ICCVAM to carry out the

following duties:

1. Review and evaluate new or revised or alternative test methods… that may be

acceptable for specific regulatory uses, including [those]… of interagency


2. Facilitate appropriate interagency and international harmonization of acute or

chronic toxicological test protocols that encourage the reduction, refinement, or

replacement of animal test methods.

3. Facilitate and provide guidance on the development of validation criteria, validation studies and processes for new or revised or alternative test methods and help

facilitate the acceptance [and awareness] of such scientifically valid test methods… by Federal agencies and other stakeholders.

4. Submit ICCVAM test recommendations for the test method reviewed by

ICCVAM…to each appropriate Federal agency…

5. Consider for review and evaluation, petitions received from the public that (A)

identify a specific regulation, recommendation, or guideline regarding a regulatory mandate; and (B) recommend new or revised or alternative test methods and

provide valid scientific evidence of the potential of the test method.

6. Make available to the public final ICCVAM test recommendations to appropriate

Federal agencies and the responses from the agencies regarding such


7. Prepare [biennial] reports to be made available to the public on [ICCVAM] progress under this Act.

Finally, the ICCVAM Authorization Act established a standing NTP Scientific

Advisory Committee, now designated the Scientific Advisory Committee on

Alternative Toxicological Methods (SACATM), to advise ICCVAM and NICEATM

regarding ICCVAM activities. SACATM members are appointed by the NIEHS

Director and include stakeholders from regulated industries, animal protection organizations, academia, U.S. state or international regulatory bodies, and companies or

organizations that develop, market, or use test methods. ICCVAM members who

represent the 15 ICCVAM agencies serve as non-voting SACATM members.

ICCVAM relies on stakeholders to carry out AM research, development, and

validation, providing guidance to test method developers where needed/requested.

As such, ICCVAM does not carry out validation studies on behalf of test method

developers but evaluates alternative toxicological test methods nominated/submitted by stakeholders and reviews validation data, organizes expert peer reviews of


J. Barroso et al.

promising methods, and makes recommendations on the use of reviewed test methods to appropriate U.S. Federal agencies. ICCVAM therefore welcomes nominations/submissions of innovative test methods or approaches that may be acceptable

for specific regulatory use and that align with ICCVAM member agency needs and

priorities. Submissions/nominations accepted for review by ICCVAM will generally need to be supported by at least one federal agency, which takes the role of

‘sponsor’ for the proposed project, thereby ensuring that work done by ICCVAM is

aligned with the needs of the agencies. ICCVAM is responsible for determining the

relevance and priority of test method nominations/submissions, whereas NICEATM

facilitates their scientific review by making use of its competencies in validation

study design, computational toxicology, chemoinformatics, data management and

data analysis.

To optimize utilization of resources and avoid duplication of effort, ICCVAM

coordinates test method evaluation activities with ICATM partner organizations.

International collaboration is also facilitated through ICCVAM agency participation

in the OECD TGP. The U.S. National Coordinator for the OECD TGP (NC) has

become an ad hoc member of ICCVAM in 2013 and uses the Committee as an interface both to provide frequent updates to federal agencies on topics of international

interest, thus increasing agency awareness of international 3R efforts, and to gather

feedback on those activities for the OECD. Broader engagement with the scientific

community and stakeholders is achieved through focused workshops, webinars and

face-to-face forums.

Both ICCVAM and NICEATM were reorganized in 2013. The vision for the

2013 reorganization of ICCVAM is described on the NTP website (see: http://ntp.

niehs.nih.gov/pubhealth/evalatm/iccvam/mission-and-vision/index.html), and in

the draft document issued by ICCVAM, “A New Vision and Direction for ICCVAM”

(see: http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/about_ntp/sacatm/2013/september/iccvamnewvision_aug2013_508.pdf). This document presents ICCVAM’s (1) areas of priority

and scientific focus for immediate resource investment, (2) plans to improve communications with stakeholders and the public, and (3) interest in exploring new

paradigms for the validation and utilization of alternative toxicological methods.

NICEATM’s mandate was also updated in 2013, and now includes other NTP activities, e.g., supporting NTP’s participation in the interagency Tox21 initiative, in

addition to its original purpose as the scientific and operational support for ICCVAM.


Health Canada

There are significant differences between Health Canada (HC) and the other ICATM

partners. HC is not at ‘arms-length’ from regulatory bodies like the other ICATM

partners because HC is a regulatory body itself. It has broad responsibilities as a

regulator of foods, biologics, consumer products, medical devices, natural health

products, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and chemical substances. HC is made up of

12 Branches, Offices and Bureaux as well as four Agencies. Branches involved in


International Harmonization and Cooperation in the Validation of Alternative…


regulation of potentially harmful exposures include the Healthy Environments and

Consumer Safety Branch, the Health Products and Food Branch, and the Pest

Management Regulatory Agency. HC’s Environmental Health Science and Research

Bureau coordinates Canada’s participation in ICATM.

Unlike the other ICATM partners, Canada does not have a national validation

centre or a specific legislative mandate to work on 3Rs. As such, HC does not initiate any validation work or receive nominations of AMs for evaluation, but may

‘sponsor’ such work in collaboration with an ICATM partner. Priorities are drawn

from national regulatory needs, international commitments and future scientific

directions, overlaid with domestic expertise and existing partnerships. HC also has

limited institutional expertise with peer reviews and therefore, does not lead international peer reviews of AMs/validation studies like some of the other ICATM partners do. Even though there is no formal programme on AMs or a validation body in

Canada, HC does contribute to research and method development, to validation

lab-work including international collaborative studies, to validation management

committees, to international peer reviews (by providing experts as members of a

peer review panel), and to the OECD TGP in the area of alternatives. The primary

interest is to ensure that new alternative methods or strategies offer equivalent or

better protection of human health while respecting the 3Rs. HC is also a permanent

member of the Canadian Council on Animal Care, which oversees the ethical use of

animals in science in Canada.

In terms of test method recommendations, HC works mostly via the OECD TGP

to disseminate information on acceptable AMs. The Canadian OECD TGP National

Coordinator is from HC.

HC will continue contributing expertise to the validation of AMs. Where there

are opportunities to participate and adequate resources, HC will contribute to the

design, management and conduct of validation studies, to peer reviews of validated

AMs and to the development of recommendations on their suitability and



The Japanese Center for the Validation of Alternative

Methods (JaCVAM)

JaCVAM was established by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW)

in November 2005 as a part of the National Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS)’s

Division of Pharmacology at the Biological Safety Research Center (BSRC).

JaCVAM is charged with the following roles and responsibilities: (1) to promote the

use of AMs to animal testing in regulatory studies in Japan, thereby replacing,

reducing, or refining (the 3Rs) the use of animals wherever possible while meeting

the responsibility of the BSRC to ensure the protection of the general public by

assessing the safety of chemicals and other materials, as stipulated in the regulations

of the NIHS; (2) to ensure new methods originated in Japan are validated, peer


J. Barroso et al.

Fig. 14.2 Framework for validation, peer review and regulatory acceptance of AMs in Japan

reviewed, accepted by regulatory agencies, and made internationally compatible;

and (3) to establish guidelines for new alternative experimental methods through

international collaboration. To accomplish this, JaCVAM assesses the utility, limitations, and suitability for use in regulatory studies of AMs for determining the safety

of chemicals and other materials and also performs validation studies when necessary. In addition, JaCVAM cooperates and collaborates with similar organizations in

related fields, both in Japan and internationally. The Regulation on the Foundation

of JaCVAM of May 1, 2007 (accessible at: http://www.jacvam.jp/files/regulations120813.pdf) establishes JaCVAM’s Rules of Operation.

The framework for the validation, peer review and regulatory acceptance of AMs

in Japan is summarized in Fig. 14.2. JaCVAM is organized around a JaCVAM

Steering Committee composed of the NIHS Director General, the BSRC Director

(chairperson) and other BSRC division representatives, a representative from the

MHLW, a representative from the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency,

and the head of the Section for the Evaluation of Novel Methods in the Division of

Pharmacology of the BSR. The JaCVAM Steering Committee deliberates on the

selection/acceptance of novel and modified methods for study by JaCVAM, based

on documentation submitted by a test method developer/proposer. If required, the

Steering Committee proposes the organization of a validation study and commissions a new Validation Management Team (VMT), appointing its chairperson.

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1 The European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EURL ECVAM)

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