What do a blinking eye technology, silicone chips, and a changing science education in Brazil have in common? These are just a few of the projects from winners of the Lush Prize 2018, recognised for their work to bring an end to product safety testing on animals.
The Prize, run by Lush and Ethical Consumer Research Association, rewards projects from a range of disciplines fighting to bring an end to safety testing on animals. It comes with a £350,000 prize fund, and has been in action since 2012. This year, the annual conference and awards ceremony is being held in Berlin.
This year’s Science Prize winner, a new blinking eye-on-a-chip technology from Korean-American Professor Dan Dongeun Huh of the BIOLines Research Group at the University of Pennsylvania, has received particular focus. This technology could have a huge impact if it can be used to run eye irritation tests, rather than the test subjects more commonly used - rabbits. The eye-on-a-chip, composed of human cells, has tear ducts and an eyelid, which blinks to respond to foreign bodies in the same way a human or animal would.
“Over the last five years, we have witnessed a huge upsurge of interest in the potential of ‘organs on chips’ to replace animal use in science. Professor Huh’s blinking eye-on-a-chip has caught the imagination of our judges,” says Lush Prize Director Rob Harrison.
“The eye, and other human organs on chips, provide a clear vision of what a complete replacement technology for animal use in science might look like.”
The winner of the Lobbying Prize, The Brazilian Network for Humane Education (RedEH), has worked alongside the International Network for Humane Education to make major changes in science education, which it hopes will filter through into science itself. The organisations joined together to convince the Brazilian Government to ban the use of cruel animal tests in the classroom. The ban will come into force in 2019.
The White Coat Waste Project (WCW) in the US won this year’s Public Awareness Prize, and is celebrating huge successes in the fight against animal testing in the US.
“The US Government is the world’s largest funder of animal experiments,” WCW explains. “Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay for wasteful government-funded animal tests.”
Among other achievements, WCW has helped secure a Bill in Virginia which will put an end to state tax funding for “maximum pain” cat and dog experiments, as well as ending the use of baby monkeys in nicotine tests for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
New scientific advances may be vital for cruelty-free testing, but training people in those new technologies is just as important. Winners of the Training Prize for 2018, the Laboratory of Education and Research in Pharmacology and Cellular Toxicology is doing just that. The team has won this award in recognition of projects training researchers from South American industry, academia and regulatory agencies, as well as introducing non-animal technologies to undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Young researchers from across the world have also been awarded prizes, supporting the next generation of scientists in creating a world where testing does not involve animals. One of those people is Nikolas Gaio from the Netherlands, for his work on replacing animal tests with silicon chips.
Rob Harrison says that when the Lush Prize was first conceived, the team realised there was no one solution for ending animal testing.
“There were five things that we needed to do, and so there were five prizes that target the things you need to change to end animal testing,” he explains.
It was clear that the prize needed to bring together five groups of people who could bring about an end to animal testing: lobbyists, scientists, trainers, public awareness raisers, and young scientists.
The 2018 Winners in Full
Professor Rita de Cássia, Brazilian Network for Humane Education (RedEH)
Dr Jeoung Ae Han, Member of National Assembly
White Coat Waste Project
Professor Dan Dongeun Huh, The BIOLines Research Group, University of Pennsylvania
Dr Marize Valadares, Laboratory of Education and Research in Pharmacology and Cellular Toxicology
Young Researcher - Americas
Dr Pilar de la Puente, Sanford Research
Dr Natalia Sizochenko, Dartmouth College
Sasan Jalili Firoozinezhad, Wyss Institute - Harvard University
Dr Vinicius Alves, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Lorena Neves, Catholic University of Petrópolis
Young Researcher - Asia
Dr Guan-Yu Chen, Institute of Biomedical Engineering, National Chiao Tung University
Kota Toshimoto, RIKEN
Dr Jiangwa Xing, Qinghai University
Young Researcher - Rest of the World
Nikolas Gaio, Technical University of Delft
Aline Chary, LIST
Dr Alessandro Polini, Università del Salento / CNR Nanotec
Dr Daniel Urbisch, BASF SE
Alexandra Damerau, Charité- Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Find out more about the fight against animal testing, and whether the end is in sight.