The Lush Science Prize aims to recognise and reward those working to eliminate animal testing in science and cosmetics. Professor Marcel Leist works in the department of in vitro toxicology and biomedicine at the University of Konstanz, Germany. He has been awarded one of this year’s two science prizes for his work developing toxicological tests based on human cells.
When testing chemicals, it is vital that all of its hazardous effects are identified - no matter what part of the body it affects. This means a variety of cells must be tested on, some are easy to obtain, but others, like neuronal cells, are far harder to source.
Marcel and his team’s research focuses on finding a way of generating these cells from pluripotent stem cells (cells that can form any cell in the human body).
He explains: “Our vision is that eventually, when all these tests are established, the hazard can be predicted, based on an in vitro test. For safety evaluations it is important that such a test captures all hazardous effects of chemicals, no matter which organ or which developmental phase they affect.
“Our research projects aim at the generation of rare cell types from pluripotent stem cells, to assure the quality of cell preparations and to use the cells alone, or in combination with other cell types to establish test systems suitable for hazard testing of environmental chemicals and drugs.”
But what motivates Marcel and his team work to make a difference in the field of alternative testing?
He says: “I have experienced the poor predictivity of animal models in drug development. I
would like good research to be a win-win- win situation - for animals, for humans, for sponsors of studies.”
After winning the Lush Prize Marcel hopes he can continue to demonstrate and develop alternative, human based cell testing.