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Q&A with Professor Lisbeth Knudsen

Lisbeth Knudsen is professor of Toxicology at the University of Copenhagen. She is currently president of the European Consensus Platform for 3R Alternatives to Animal Experimentation (ECOPA), and one of the speakers at the Lush Prize conference 2014.

Please could you introduce yourself and give us a brief introduction to your work

I am a member of the board of The Danish 3R Centre, and I also received the Nordic Alternative Prize 2006 for promoting development of alternatives to animal testing. I am a member of the board of The Danish 3R Centre and received the Nordic Alternative Prize 2006, for promoting development of alternatives to animal testing. My research activities focus on human risk from environmental exposures in foetal stage and childhood, including studies of maternal and foetal exposures, exchange from mother to foetus and childhood exposures.

Currently I am the study director of BA and MA studies in Public Health Sciences at the Faculty of Health and Medicine at the University of Copenhagen, teaching about the 3Rs in science, toxicology and environmental health. My main areas of research are: toxicology, genotoxicology, biomonitoring of environmental and occupational exposures, alternatives to animal experiments, ethical aspects of genetic testing and biomonitoring.

Tell us more about ECOPA

ECOPA is based on the concept of consensus between all parties concerned, i.e. animal welfare, industry, academia and government institutions. Previously ECOPA participated in EU-research projects with the role of dissemination and public awareness. The new board of ECOPA wanted to stress the importance of local activities within the 3Rs – major emphasis on Replacement which was the original remit of ECOPA. However with the new directive also covering research, much emphasis has been devoted to the 3Rs and ECOPA is half-heartedly taking the Refinement and Reduction on board.  I have come to the conclusion the 3Rs together are not compatible with different scientific disciplines, which are not normally working together and forced to collaborate. This is my experience from the discussions in the new Danish 3R Centre – strongly associated with the Animal Experiments Inspectorate (AEI).

Professor Knudsen

Why is it not useful for cosmetic products to be tested on animals?

Cosmetics are applied dermatologically and no animal model can cover this application method, whilst useful [human] cell models can be used.

How have new methods of toxicology testing affected the way that science views the animal model as a test subject?

The focus of modern human toxicology is on human pathways and chemistry, whereas using animals introduces an element of extrapolation; rather omitted.

Is 1R the new 3Rs?

In fact I consider the 3Rs outdated as new human approaches are demanded by society and animal testing should only be done for very specific cases with whole body exposure. I do of course give the 3R work a try, and emphasise the task of educating young researchers in seeking information about animal-free research and applying this.

In your opinion, are we near to a breakthrough in the fight against animal testing?

For sensitisation and skin/eye irritation (i.e. cosmetic testing) we have reached the breakthrough, whilst long-term effects on reproduction and cancer research, in terms of animal alternatives, is not there yet.


I do of course give the 3R work a try and emphasise the task of educating young researchers in seeking information about animal free research and applying this.

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