EU 3Rs Centers & Initiatives

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European Union: Programs & Policies

EU 3Rs Centers & Initiatives

Last updated: March 11, 2014

Academic, industry, government, and nonprofit organizations with 3Rs mandates that operate in the European Union:

3R Research Foundation Switzerland

The Swiss 3R Research Foundation was established in 1987 as a tripartite initiative between the public sector Parliamentary Group for Animal Experimentation Questions, the Foundation for Animal-Free Research, and the corporations Novartis Pharma, Hoffman-LaRoche, and Serono Ltd. The foundation acts primarily as a funding body for 3Rs research in Switzerland.  Since its inception, the foundation has funded more than 100 research projects.

In addition to direct funding, the foundation also publishes periodic 3Rs information bulletins and has developed an accredited 3Rs training course, which has become an integral element in animal user training and continuing education programs throughout Switzerland.


The Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing – Europe (CAAT-Europe) is located at the University of Konstanz, Germany. One of their major objectives is to bring together industry and academics to address the need for human-relevant alternative methods. The CAAT and CAAT-Europe “transatlantic venture will promote the application and teaching of humane science, raise funds from industrial and private sponsors for this purpose, and participate in and/or coordinate funded projects.”

Doerenkamp-Zbinden Foundation

Founded in 1982 on the initiative of its namesakes, Hildegard Doerenkamp and the late Prof. Gerhard Zbinden, the Doerenkamp-Zbinden Foundation was created to promote and reward “exceptional achievements in animal protection in biomedical research.” From its inception through the mid-1990s, the foundation focused primarily on reducing the suffering of animals used in experiments, by awarding refinement-oriented grants and financing the Doerenkamp Chair for Innovations in Animal and Consumer Protection at the University of Erlangen in Germany.

More recently, the foundation has been reorganized to focus exclusively on replacement and reduction initiatives and has renamed itself the Doerenkamp-Zbinden Foundation for Animal-Free Research. Under this new mandate, a Foundation Professorship for In Vitro Methods for the Replacement of Animal Experiments has been established at the University of Konstanz in Germany. The foundation also awards an annual prize for outstanding achievement, above and beyond its ongoing grants program.

Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research

Established in 1970 in honor of the distinguished 19th century physician and humanitarian Walter Hadwen, the Dr Hadwen Trust aims “to advance the development and acceptance of non-animal techniques to replace animals in biomedical research.” To this end, the trust conducts and funds research satisfying high ethical and scientific standards. Types of support include grants for up to three-years for postdoctoral research fellows, technicians, and research assistants, as well as occasional infrastructure grants and/or funding support for workshops, conferences, and/or publications that fulfill the trust’s aims. Although the trust focuses predominantly on the application of the 3Rs in the context of fundamental and applied research, it has also funded a number of projects relevant to the field of regulatory toxicology.

In addition to its active research and funding programs, the trust also works on 3Rs advocacy, education, and public awareness.

European Consensus Platform for Alternatives (ECOPA)

ECOPA is an EU-wide umbrella group for national “consensus platforms” working cooperatively to advance the 3Rs in member states. The stated mission of ECOPA is “to facilitate the exchange of scientific information, expertise and experience between national consensus platforms, industry, science, animal welfare and EU and government institutions to enhance the further development and implementation of refinement, reduction and replacement in animal experimentation in Europe and worldwide.” To this end, ECOPA organizes conferences and seminars, and supports scientific and educational initiatives that are consistent with its mission.

ECOPA’s membership includes consensus platforms in the following EU countries

European Partnership for Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing (EPAA)

The EPAA was established in 2005, as a joint initiative of the European Commission (EC) and a number of companies and trade associations for the purpose of pooling knowledge and resources to accelerate the development and acceptance of 3Rs methods in regulatory toxicology.

Current projects of the EPAA are organized into the following three platforms:

  1. Science Platform: Involves the prioritization, promotion, and implementation of future research based on the application of the 3Rs; activities include workshops and/or reports on recent advances in computational and systems biology, chronic repeat dose systemic toxicity, in vitro metabolism, and in vitro ADME
  2. 3Rs in Regulation Platform: Involves promoting implementation of 3Rs in EU regulatory testing; activities include a review of acute systemic toxicity and alternative approaches, a workshop on the use of the consistency approach for routine release of vaccines, feasibility study for replacing the two-generation study reproductive toxicity study with a one-generation study, identification of priority areas for implementing 3Rs in regulatory testing, promoting closer collaboration of ECVAM and industry to support test method validation, and identifying and proposing strategies for overcoming barriers to validation and regulatory acceptance
  3. Communication and Dissemination Platform: Includes activities that promote the identification, dissemination, and implementation of best practice in the 3Rs; includes the following limited-access databases developed by the EPAA:
    • In-house Review Database: inventory of alternative methods used by companies in product safety evaluations
    • Research Review Database: compilation of ongoing 3Rs research projects in the EU; intended to facilitate identification of gaps in research and inform direction of future research
Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments (FRAME)

Within a decade of Russell and Burch’s proposal in 1959 of the 3Rs concept of reduction, refinement, and replacement, FRAME was established as a registered charity to advance alternatives to animal experiments in the United Kingdom.

Since that time, FRAME has come to be recognized as a leading national and international authority on the 3Rs and toxicology through the following activities:

  • Laboratory-based research: FRAME funds an Alternatives Laboratory at the University of Nottingham, which has been involved in the development, optimization, and international validation of numerous in vitro assays for endpoints such as acute toxicity, ocular and dermal irritation, phototoxicity, and embryotoxicity.
  • Publications: Since the mid-1970s, FRAME has published the peer-reviewed journal Alternatives to Laboratory Animals (ATLA), which reports the results of original research as well as workshop and conference proceedings, news items and commentaries related to the development, validation, acceptance, and use of the 3Rs in toxicology and research.
  • Analysis and Advocacy: “FRAME conducts literature-based scientific studies to investigate the justification for using animals in laboratory research and to promote the adoption of the Three Rs strategy wherever possible.” Past initiatives include the development of integrated testing strategies for use under REACH and in the evaluation of endocrine modulating effects; identification of opportunities for the revision and deletion of OECD Test Guidelines; the potency testing and cosmetic use of Botulinum toxin; the use of dogs, cats, nonhuman primates, and transgenic animals in testing and research; testing requirements for food additives and vaccines; and the identification of biomarkers as refinement endpoints. The results and recommendations of these analyses are communicated to government authorities and other key stakeholders through FRAME’s involvement in expert committees, scientific conferences, workshops, and publications.
German Center for the Documentation and Evaluation of Alternatives to Animal Experiments (ZEBET)

Established in 1989 as part of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), ZEBET is a government center mandated to “bring about the replacement particularly of legally prescribed animal experiments with alternative test methods” by documenting and assessing 3Rs methods, and, as appropriate, “pushing through their recognition both nationally and internationally.” Within Germany, ZEBET plays a role in the enforcement of the country’s Animal Welfare Act, advising national authorities with respect to available alternatives to animal experiments and preparing expert opinions in response to applications for authorization of animal research projects. ZEBET also maintains a publicly accessible alternatives database, which contains summaries of approximately 800 books, journals, laws, regulations, guidelines, pharmacopeia, dissertations, conference proceedings, and more.

ZEBET is also directly involved in the development and validation of in vitro and other alternative toxicological testing methods, both in-house and through extramural research grants.

For example, ZEBET:

  • Led the development and successful validation of the in vitro 3T3 NRU Phototoxicity Test, in which mouse fibroblast cells are exposed to a test substance in the presence and absence of UV light to evaluate the potential for sunlight-induced toxicity
  • Helped to pioneer the use of mouse embryonic stem cells to screen for agents that might harm developing embryos
  • Served as the lead laboratory for the successful ECVAM validation of the Embryonic Stem Cell Test
  • Participated in several EC research programs, including ReProTect
  • Is represented on the ECVAM Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC)
International Society for In Vitro Methods (INVITROM)

INVITROM is a joint initiative among academic centers in Belgium and the Netherlands whose mission is the “promotion of the development, the application and the acceptance of in vitro models in the biomedical research.” Information exchange, including the organization of an annual symposium, is a key function of INVITROM. INVITROM aims to foster collaboration between research institutes, industry, and regulators in support of more rapid development and acceptance of in vitro models, paradigms, and strategies.
National Center for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), UK

The NC3Rs was established in 2004 as an offshoot of the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Best Practice for Animals in Research, with a mandate to serve as a focal point for 3Rs and animal welfare research and related initiatives in the UK.

An independent organization, financed by and accountable to a range of government, industry, and other stakeholders, the NC3Rs is principally active in the following areas:

  • Stimulate 3Rs advances by inspiring and funding original ideas, and training early-career scientists in universities and industry
  • Accelerate scientific discovery by bringing together the best talent from a range of disciplines to energise technological development
  • Inform a culture shift across the scientific community and society by raising the profile of alternative approaches and best practice
  • Change international regulations on animal use by brokering data sharing across industry to build an evidence-base for change.

A major function of NC3Rs is the direct funding of fundamental and applied research that will advance knowledge and application of the 3Rs. The NC3Rs produces a range of publications promoting the 3Rs, including a newsletter and commissioned articles on topical issues, new technologies, and 3Rs research. The center has also developed an expansive Internet portal to provide easy access to online databases, websites, journal articles, legislation, and other reference materials. NC3Rs also organizes and supports CRACKIT Challenges, an open innovative program established to connect funders with 3Rs research problems (Challenges) and innovative researchers needing support.

Netherlands Knowledge Centre on Alternatives to Animal Use (NKCA)

The goal of NKCA is to promote the application of the 3Rs in the Netherlands. NKCA was established by the Dutch government as a collaboration between RIVM and  is an academic institute within the University of Utrecht.

NKCA promotes the 3Rs through activities in the following areas:

  • Knowledge and information management
  • Communication management
  • Education
  • Policy advice
Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments

The Swedish Fund for Research Without Animal Experiments is a private organization financed by public donations that “promotes the development and validation of replacement alternatives to animal experiments by awarding grants to research projects.” The fund, active since 1964, is one of the first organizations in the world to award grants specifically for the replacement and reduction of animal experimentation.

The fund regularly sponsors the annual workshops of the Scandinavian Society of Cell Toxicology, and routinely awards grants for university courses on alternatives as well as for laboratory personnel training.