Regulatory agencies around the world require tests to assess the toxicity of products such as pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides, industrial chemicals, and medical devices before they’re put on the market. While toxicity testing has historically been conducted on animals in crude tests developed decades ago, things are changing, thanks to the work of PETA Science Consortium International e.V., which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary.*
What Is the Science Consortium?
Established in 2012, the Science Consortium consists of 25 doctoral- and masters-level scientists who work for PETA entities around the globe. Together, they bring considerable expertise to accomplishing the Science Consortium’s core mission: advancing reliable and relevant animal-free toxicity testing approaches.
What Does the Science Consortium Do?
The Science Consortium engages in a host of activities to replace tests on animals with scientifically sound cell-based and other modern and humane testing approaches. These activities include the following:
• Collaborating on projects with government agencies, industry leaders, method developers, academics, and other non-governmental organisations
• Publishing scientific papers
• Handing out awards to early-career and established researchers
• Organising and co-hosting webinars
• Participating in scientific conferences and meetings
Awards for the Science Consortium
The Science Consortium has received multiple awards for its work, including the 2015 Lush Prize for Training in recognition of its leadership in replacing animal testing through education and training.
Additionally, the Society of Toxicology (SOT), a professional organisation composed of more than 8,000 scientists from 60 countries, named Science Consortium President Dr Amy Clippinger the winner of the 2022 Society of Toxicology Enhancement of Animal Welfare Award for her achievements in advancing non-animal toxicology test methods. The Science Consortium has also received several awards from SOT specialty sections for best posters and papers of the year.
Learn More About the Science Consortium on The PETA Podcast by PETA US
10 Extraordinary Accomplishments of the Science Consortium Over the Last 10 Years
- Funding from the Science Consortium helped create a first-of-its-kind three-dimensional model that can study the effects of chemicals and other substances on the deepest part of the human lung. Together with other non-animal tests, this model has the potential to help replace the use of roughly 1 million animals each year in tests for which they’re forced to inhale toxic substances before being killed.
2. The Science Consortium funded a project that led to the creation of fully human-derived antibodies capable of blocking the toxin that causes diphtheria. These human-derived antibodies represent the first step towards ending the 100-year-old method of injecting horses repeatedly with the diphtheria toxin and then draining huge amounts of their blood in order to collect the antibodies that their immune systems produce to fight the disease.
- The Science Consortium funded a project that led to the creation of fully human-derived antibodies capable of blocking the toxin that causes diphtheria. These human-derived antibodies represent the first step towards ending the 100-year-old method of injecting horses repeatedly with the diphtheria toxin and then draining huge amounts of their blood in order to collect the antibodies that their immune systems produce to fight the disease.
- PETA scientists teamed up with a personal lubricant company and persuaded the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the company’s product based on non-animal test results, rather than requiring experiments in which rabbits and guinea pigs are injected with lubricants. This decision by the FDA set a precedent that has encouraged other companies to do the same.
- The Science Consortium and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a paper that led to a new EPA policy preventing hundreds of mallards and quails each year from being used in tests in which they’re fed pesticide-laced food for days before being killed. The paper came after the authors reviewed 20 years of data and found that the agency could confidently protect the environment without poisoning birds in this cruel test.
- PETA scientists led a project in collaboration with scientists from the US government, industry, and academia to develop a new approach to testing chemicals for their potential to cause cancer and published their findings in a scientific journal. The approach is already being used to prevent hundreds of mice and rats from being used in tests in which they’re fed pesticides every day for their entire lives to see whether tumours develop, and this number will continue to grow.
- After years of efforts by PETA scientists, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) fully accepted non-animal methods to test corrosive materials. DOT requires that companies test chemicals for their ability to cause permanent skin damage – corrosion – before they’re shipped around the country on lorries, trains, boats, and aeroplanes. This updated rule will spare rabbits these painful tests, in which potentially hazardous substances are applied to their shaved skin to determine whether burns or other signs of skin damage develop. DOT now encourages companies to use modern, animal-free methods instead.
- Working with the US government and industry, the Science Consortium published a paper that challenged the antiquated practice of measuring the accuracy of new eye irritation tests by directly comparing their results to those from flawed animal tests and concluded that the newer methods that don’t use live animals should be accepted now. This change would prevent an estimated 600 rabbits from being used in pesticide tests each year in the US alone. PETA scientists built on this work with another paper that provides a framework based on human biology and good science that researchers can use to evaluate any new method, rather than using flawed tests on animals.
- PETA scientists and other stakeholders provided extensive input on the 2016 Frank R Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, an amendment to the Toxic Substances Control Act, which governs the testing of all industrial chemicals in the US. This input resulted in the inclusion of language requiring the EPA to develop, prioritise, and use non-animal test methods before toxicity tests on vertebrate animals are considered. Similarly, in Europe, PETA scientists focus on minimising animal testing required for industrial chemicals under the European Union’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals regulation.
- In 2021, when the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) insisted that a substance used in washing and cleaning products be tested on animals, the Science Consortium provided crucial evidence in an appeal case showing that this substance was no longer being produced in large enough quantities for tests to be legally required under European Union law. The ECHA Board of Appeal agreed with the Science Consortium, preventing at least 505 rats and fish from being used in these tests. In a 2018 case, the ECHA Board of Appeal rejected a test decision that would have involved force-feeding high concentrations of a cosmetics ingredient to pregnant rats or rabbits before dissecting them and their unborn offspring. The Science Consortium argued successfully that ECHA had failed to consider the implications of the EU Cosmetics Regulation, which prevents companies from relying on animal testing data to demonstrate the safety of cosmetics.
- With encouragement from PETA scientists, the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission (IPC), the national body that establishes required drug test methods in India, will allow companies to use animal-free methods for tests required to detect fever-causing contaminants in medicines. In addition, following input from PETA scientists, the IPC removed a redundant requirement to conduct the abnormal toxicity test for vaccines, a lethal test that requires injecting thousands of guinea pigs and mice each year with vaccines. PETA scientists helped spare even more guinea pigs the following year when the Bureau of Indian Standards – a national governmental group that oversees standardised product test methods in India – replaced a lethal test on guinea pigs used to detect anthrax in animal feed with a modern, non-animal one, after hearing from PETA scientists.
Here’s to the Science Consortium for advancing reliable and relevant non-animal testing methods for 10 years. We look forward to many more victories for animals!
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*Any mention of the Science Consortium prior to December 2020 refers to PETA International Science Consortium Ltd.