Lush Prize awards £450,000 to those replacing animal tests
Awards ceremony and conference taking place today
The future of animal-free science this week received a terrific boost with a record total of £450,000 funding by the Lush Prize (a joint project from Ethical Consumer and Lush Cosmetics), the largest prize fund for the complete replacement of animal experiments.
The awards conference presented by Dr Gill Langley
Scientists and campaigners from nine countries share the prize money and will receive their awards in London today. The winners were selected, by an international panel of experts, from 51 shortlisted science teams, organisations and individual researchers.
This year the prize fund has awarded a special Black Box prize to those using 21st century technologies like genetics and computing. Scientists have now fully explained at a molecular level how a toxic chemical can enter the human body and lead to a recurring allergic skin reaction.
Judges believe that mapping this pathway represents a breakthrough moment marking the first step into a future where a superior molecular science replaces the old, imprecise, technology of testing on live mammals in laboratories.
Rob Harrison, a Lush Prize Director and Ethical Consumer founder, says,
“We often hear about why animal testing is cruel and unreliable but we also want to embrace the future of 21st century science, where research is more relevant. 3D culture models and ‘body-on-a-chip’ systems are just some of the exciting projects we are rewarding this year.
The judges are excited to be making Lush Prize's first breakthrough award in only its fourth year. Identifying just a few key people to receive this award amongst the many involved in a genuine global collaboration on skin sensitisation has been very difficult.
Although winners include people working inside some very big and complex organisations including the OECD and Proctor and Gamble, we are committed to rewarding excellence wherever we find it, and are convinced that a pathway-based approach to understanding toxic effects marks a key step on the way to a future of completely animal-free toxicity testing."
Prize winner Dr. Bob Diderich
Double your money
The Lush Prize – now in its fourth year – usually provides £250,000 annual funding to projects working to end animal research in toxicology (chemical testing). This year however the amount given has doubled with the awarding of the the breakthrough prize.
Lush Prize judges said that although the 'skin sensitisation pathway' has come about through the work of many people over more than two decades, the judges have decided to split the award with £100,000 to individuals and £120,000 to a leading organisation.
The four individuals who have made key contributions to building the map in the past include:
David is a UK-based researcher who has published over 300 papers on skin sensitisation, bridging the gap between industry and academic research. He has focussed particularly on trying to predict whether chemicals will cause allergy from their molecular structure and has also chaired important European groups focussed on non-animal tests.
Dr Gerberick's primary research focus has been in the field of skin allergy with over 170 publications. He has also co-authored a book 'Toxicology of Contact Dermatitis'. His laboratory in the USA has developed one of the first widely-used non-animal tests (the DPRA) to predict toxicity at the first stage in the skin sensitisation pathway.
- Andreas Natsch & Roger Emter
Andreas Natsch and his colleague Roger Emter have led the development of the second non-animal test to reliably predict toxicity within the skin sensitisation pathway. Their 'KeratinoSens' method, developed in Switzerland, uses a human cell line in a test tube and looks for a particular type of gene signalling.
Terry is Emeritus Professor at the University of Tennessee where he directed the Biological Activity Testing and Modelling Laboratory. His focus has been the non-animal testing of chemicals for toxicity and building computer databases of results to help predict outcomes. He played a key role in mapping the whole pathway in the two 2012 OECD research papers 'The Adverse Outcome Pathway for Skin Sensitisation Initiated by Covalent Binding to Proteins.'
Organisational Black Box winner
A further amount of £150,000 was awarded to the OECD's Adverse Outcome Pathway programme, an institution that judges describe as a key global co-ordinating institution working on 'adverse outcome pathways' in the future.
The programme, directed by Bob Diderich, oversees a range of activities including:
- identifying new non-animal test methods that are candidates to become international 'Test Guidelines';
- managing an 'AOP Knowledge Base' which is a web-based platform to bring together all knowledge on how chemicals can induce adverse effects.
- The OECD is a Paris-based organisation which "provides a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems."
Delegates applaud the work of Dr Diderich
Why Black Box?
Lush calls this breakthrough award its 'Black Box' Prize because it allows people to understand toxicity happening inside the cells of human organisms for the first time. Testing chemicals on animals is a 'black box' because, although it tells you that so many grammes of a poison will kill or damage a creature of a certain weight, it cannot explain why.
Aside from the Black Box prize the organisation rewards work in areas of science, training, public awareness, lobbying and young researchers.
Winners this year include:
- Young Researchers, progressing a career in non-animal science, from Brazil, Germany, Italy and USA
- An individual in Ukraine whose introduction of alternatives to animal tests in universities has saved tens of thousands of animals
- A Green Party MP from New Zealand who led the campaign to end animal testing of cosmetics (she declined the financial element of her prize, which enabled an additional Young Researcher prize to be awarded)
- An organisation in the USA which works to ensure animals no longer used in experiments have to be re-homed to safe environments rather than killed
You can find more information on the Lush Prize website