Alternative methods to animal testing

Platform lead: Dr. Annette Bitsch and Dr. Katherina Sewald

Fraunhofer on the way to predictive models of the future

Animal experiments are permitted "with reasonable cause" to answer scientific questions in basic research and in biomedical research for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases in humans and animals. They are also required in regulatory toxicology for legally mandated approvals of products (e.g., chemicals or drugs); in each case, it must be determined "whether the purpose pursued cannot be achieved by other methods or procedures." These other methods or procedures are often referred to as "alternative methods". In the narrower sense, they primarily include approaches that replace animal testing. But they also include approaches that reduce or improve animal testing.


Alternative methods as an integral part of research

Alternative test methods are an important, integral part of research. However, this does not necessarily lead to the complete replacement of animal testing. Rather, these approaches exist in parallel and/or complementary to each other. Moreover, only very few animal experiments can (so far) be completely replaced by alternative methods.

A variety of methods or procedures exist to avoid or reduce the use of animals in experiments or to alleviate the expected suffering of the animals. These alternative methods or procedures are based, for example, on computer models, cell and tissue culture, the use of alternative organisms, or the improvement of animal experiments. Nevertheless, there is an enormous need, e.g. for predictive computer-based models or for test systems that predict the complex disease process in the patient.


© Fraunhofer ITEM | Katherina Sewald
Aufbau- und Entwicklungsplan, inklusive der einzelnen Arbeitspakete, für die Kompetenzplattform.


Development, implementation and application of alternative methods

The Fraunhofer Competence Platform "Alternative methods to animal testing" aims to serve as a forum to promote discussions between different stakeholders such as authorities, industry and politicians, while generating new ideas to facilitate the acceptance and implementation of alternative methods. This will be supported, among other things, by funding small-scale projects on new advanced alternative methods. It will also serve to carry out further studies (e.g. with industry consortia) or to submit joint applications in EU or BMBF calls for proposals. Furthermore, the Competence Platform "Alternative methods to animal testing" provides reliable information on alternative methods for science, philosophy and public policy.

The Fraunhofer Competence Platform "Alternative methods to animal testing" is intended to promote regulatory discussion, consultation and the development of decision-making aids for alternative methods. Fraunhofer is to be established perceptibly and visibly in the scientific communiy.

At Fraunhofer IGB, IME, ITEM, ITMP, ISC and IZI, numerous alternative methods are available, especially for acute and chronic immune diseases. This includes organs such as heart, liver, kidney, skin, intestine, and lung, which can be used for efficacy and safety testing. However, alternative methods for safety testing of chemicals and drugs are also strongly represented. These competencies are implemented in the platform.



The next steps will serve to establish the Fraunhofer Competence Platform "Alternative methods to animal testing". To this end, representatives from various interest groups will be involved, meetings will be held in the form of an open exchange of experts, and cooperation will be discussed between the partners using concrete examples. In addition, potentials and synergies within the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft are to be identified and promoted.

The need for research in this field is huge. For example, there is currently a great need in the development of computer-aided methods, in the development of immune-competent models and in the development of complex models.