EUROPE: New EU funds for non-animal testing

A substantial fund of EUR50 million (US$74 million) is being offered to European research teams to develop alternatives to animal testing for cosmetics and related industries.

The joint partnership between the European Commission and the European Cosmetics Association (Colipa) is calling on scientists to develop proposals for studies into new non-animal testing methods before a February 2010 deadline.

Colipa has matched the EUR25 million funding offered by the European Commission to create the EUR50 million incentive for non-animal research.

Since 2004, the EU has banned the marketing of finished animal-tested cosmetic products and since March this year this has also applied to many ingredients tests. Ingredients tests regarding dose toxicity, reproductive toxicity and toxicokinetics assessments are still allowed, until test alternatives that do not involve the use of animals have been developed and evaluated.

The call for proposals says priority will be given to projects focusing on non-animal tests involving "repeated dose systemic toxicity" - predicting the toxicity of the repeated use of substances over a long period of time - which is of critical importance to the cosmetics sector. It stressed that these tests might also benefit the pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

Resulting tests could be assessed by the Commission's advisory body, the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods. It recommends tests for approval by Brussels, which then sanctions the banning of particular animal tests as a result.

In a statement, the EU commissioner for science and research, Janez Potočnik, and Vice-president Günter Verheugen, agreed that "faster, cheaper and more reliable alternative methods will both contribute to this increased safety and strengthen the competitiveness of European industry. Pooling resources with private partners like the cosmetic industry is crucial to finance the long-term cutting-edge research required to meet these challenges."

Bertil Heerink, Director General of Colipa, said that for more than 20 years the cosmetic industry had been committed to eliminating the use of animals for safety testing. "Our industry welcomes the opportunity to contribute funding to this initiative, which has a key role to play in the process towards full replacement of animal safety tests in the scientifically complex area of systemic toxicity," he added.

If selected by the European Commission and Colipa, each research project could stand to receive 100% of their total eligible costs.

More information on the research framework programme and call for proposals