The Lush Young Researcher Prize aims to recognise and reward those working to eliminate animal testing in science and cosmetics through their research. Nicole Kleinstreuer, from the National Toxicology Program Interagency Center for Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM), has won one of this year’s 13 prizes for her work using computer models to screen chemicals for toxicity hazards.
Nicole works alongside a group of scientists and experts dedicated to implementing alternative testing technologies in science and science regulation. Their work focuses on analysing data sets and building models to predict the impact of chemicals on human health and disease.
She says: “We design and oversee validation studies of novel in vitro assays, and help implement alternative tests in regulatory policy. We curate high-quality data from our stakeholders and the public literature, and make that data computable and searchable via online tools for model-building and evaluation.
“We also run scientific workshops and facilitate education, communication, and training, with national and international partners,” she adds.
Being able to predict in what way a chemical will react with different elements of the human bod means chemicals can be quickly and effectively safety tested - crucially, without the use of animals.
Nicole is passionate about fighting animal testing. Not only does she care for animal welfare, but believes in the scientific prowess of alternative tests in comparison to animal tests.
She explains: “I am passionate about fighting animal testing for a myriad of reasons, some of which are emotional, based on my love and respect for animals, and some of which are driven by science and logic.
“One of the exciting aspects of being a young scientist who is building their career around finding smarter, faster, and more human-relevant alternatives to animal testing is that the current state of the science is truly catching up to our dreams, and making replacement of animal tests a reality.
“The advances are yielding models and testing strategies that truly provide better human toxicity prediction capabilities. Animal testing is not only inexcusably cruel, it is often infuriatingly irrelevant to human biology and a waste of resources and time. I am excited to be part of the revolution in toxicity testing.”
After winning the Lush prize, Nicole will start a workshop focussed on the replacement of animal tests for acute toxicity endpoints, which is a massive step towards getting alternative testing strategies recognised and implemented within scientific regulations.
“We are fortunate to live in an era where we have the tools, biological and computational, to understand chemical safety without sacrificing innocent lives. I am inspired to continue the fight to prove that in a rigorous and scientifically driven way,” she concludes.