On 10 October 2012, members of the VPH Policy Affairs Working Group (PAWG) attended a Workshop in the European Parliament entitled “Advancing Safety Science and Health Research under Horizon 2020 with Innovative, Non-Animal Tools”.
The event was organised by Humane Society International (HSI), an NGO that advocates against testing on animals, and hosted by MEPs Mario Pirillo (S&D, Italy) and Teresa Riera Madurell (S&D, Spain).
The focus on the event was on how imaging technologies, data platforms and high-throughput computation systems could in the near future significantly reduce or replace animal toxicity testing. Of particular note was the presentation by Prof. Maurice Whelan, Head of Systems Toxicology Unit at EC JRC in Italy, on the need to integrate different health data platforms. Prof. Whelan demonstrated that there are a large number of existing data platforms but that these need to be brought together in order for their full effect to be realised. The Virtual Liver Network in Germany, which is a part of the VPH initiative, was also specifically mentioned during the event as one such data platform.
The overall vision of the workshop was very much in line with the VPH Institute's priorities. In the Green Paper "From Challenges to Opportunities: Towards a Common Strategic Framework for EU Research and Innovation funding”, the VPH Institute recommended the creation of a framework program entitledinsilico clinical trials, which targets the use of ICT to simulate how large cohorts would react to new drugs, medical devices, biotech and tissue engineered products. These new technologies could be positioned before real animal and clinical trials, in order to increase the efficacy of their design, reduce the size of the cohorts, the risks for the patients and the invasiveness for the animals, together with the costs for the biomedical industry.
From an advocacy point of view the move by HSI to call for virtual trials as a part-replacement of animal toxicology testing is very positive to VPH’s advocacy goals and may help galvanise support from MEPs who normally are very interested in reducing animal testing but otherwise would not be interested in VPH.