Marcel Leist won the Lush Prize for Lobbying in 2014. Here he explains a little more about the work of CAAT-Europe (the Centre for Alternatives to Animal Testing).
Please could you introduce yourself and give us a brief introduction to your work.
The Centre for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT-Europe), housed at the University of Konstanz (Germany), brings together industry representatives, regulators, and academics to address the needs for human-relevant alternative methods to animal testing. CAAT promotes the development and implementation of alternative methods in safety testing by information sharing and by coordinating conferences and workshops. The result has been more than 30 publications with over 200 co-authors in peer-reviewed journals. CAAT-Europe was established in 2010 as European branch of CAAT located at the John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland (USA). Collaboration between the two arms of CAAT is the basis for building a transatlantic bridge between scientists and regulators in Europe and the US.
With 33 years of history in the US, CAAT’s 25-person staff and advanced research laboratories collaborate with the US regulatory bodies (e.g. FDA, US EPA) and other governmental agencies. With policy programs in Washington since 2006 and Brussels since 2012, CAAT makes its expertise available to policy-makers. CAAT-Europe’s vision is to be a leading force in the development and use of reduction, refinement, and replacement alternatives (3Rs) in research, testing, and education. The goal is to better protect both human health and the wellbeing of animals.
Why were you nominated for the prize?
Toxicology cannot move to animal-free methods without modern, science-based legislation. CAAT has been advocating a legal implementation of alternative methods in the EU since 2010. We inform key stakeholders on new technological approaches and their value in safety assessment, and we are unique in this field as a transatlantic voice of academia to policy makers in the European Parliament. Thanks to our policy program, the audience for animal-free toxicity testing has been broadened, and people initially unknowing or blind to alternative approaches to animal testing have been brought to take these into consideration. Our goal is to weaken the resistance against moving away from animal testing by showing the value of the alternatives. The CAAT-Europe policy program is not only creating momentum by organizing scientific cutting-edge workshops, but also by supporting and connecting people from different fields that are willing to further 3Rs. Continued presence at the EP has been key to establish relationships to policy makers, and CAAT is nowadays contacted as a trustworthy source of information on animal-free methods. CAAT-Europe has become an advisor to the EP via the STOA program, and has been co-organizer or active participant of ten workshops at the EP and several National Parliaments.
Why did you win the prize?
This would be best answered by the judges! Potential reasons could be:
CAAT-Europe has brought together many key players to join forces for a new, animal-free toxicology. One example for a very vast and powerful initiative is the ‘Road map for animal-free toxicology’, published as Consensus report on the future of animal-free systemic toxicity testing in ALTEX (2014) 31, 341-356.
This consensus process is reflected by vison of CAAT-Europe to form bridges: (a) between the US and Europe to better and faster embrace animal-free methods; (b) between scientists and political decision takers for decisions based on sound science (i.e. science that is aware of the shortcomings of animal experiments and the strengths and promises of alternative methods). Embracing this policy, CAAT-Europe tries to create win-win-win situations (all human stakeholder groups), which we believe is the fastest and most efficient way to create a win situation (end of testing) for animals.
Could you outline how your work overlaps with current governmental policies?
CAAT-Europe has a strict principle of not interfering with governmental policies in direct ways. We see the key to success in providing transparent information, so that scientifically sound policies can be developed. CAAT-Europe takes the role of an honest broker of information and of getting sides with different opinions to join open discussions. It is our strong belief, that the better science, based on animal-free testing will win on this basis.
What does winning the prize mean for you?
CAAT-Europe is very grateful to all its sponsors and supporters over the past years. We are proud and honored to be selected for the prize, and we feel we can give the sponsors something back in the form of showing that they have promoted an activity that has found visible international recognition. We hope that this will help to also promote similar work in the future.