With the Lush Prize conference and awards ceremony just around the corner, we asked Professor Thomas Hartung, guest speaker at the 2014 conference, a few questions about the alternatives to animal testing.
Please could you introduce yourself and give us a brief introduction to your work.
I am Professor of Toxicology (Chair for Evidence-based Toxicology), Pharmacology, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, and University of Konstanz, Germany; I am also Director of their Centers for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) with the portal AltWeb. I was the former Head of the European Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM), Ispra, Italy. I have also authored more than 420 scientific publications, which address essentially all areas of alternative methods.
Why is it not useful for cosmetic products to be tested on animals?
Different animal species predict each other only by about 60%. There is no reason to assume that they do better for humans. They are especially bad in predicting minor toxicities as typical for cosmetic ingredients.
How have new methods of toxicology testing affected the way that science views the animal model as a test subject?
As long as we had no alternative, we accepted the animal model with all its shortcomings. Now with many new technologies as the result of the biotech revolution, we are talking more openly about what we miss with regard to throughput and human relevance of results.
Is 1R the new 3Rs?
We need all Rs – as long as there are animal tests (outside cosmetic safety testing) we will need to refine these permanently to minimise suffering and always seek to use the minimal number of animals.
In your opinion, are we near to a breakthrough in the fight against animal testing?
While we are close to a breakthrough in the safety testing of compounds, other areas of animal use, especially genetically modified animals for basic research, are actually strongly expanding.