The National Toxicology Program (NTP) oversees a federal committee that Congress put in charge of implementing non-animal test methods within the government. The Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM) was established as a permanent committee of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) under the NTP’s Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM). The mission of ICCVAM, which is composed of representatives from 17 U.S. federal regulatory and research agencies, is to promote the regulatory acceptance of test methods that protect human and animal health and the environment while reducing, refining, or replacing the use of animal tests.
ICCVAM had a long history of working against its congressionally mandated mission to validate reliable test methods that would have reduced the number of animals killed in toxicity tests. The committee either moved slowly or took no action on reviewing methods to be used by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and other federal agencies. You can read more about the history of problems with ICCVAM in PETA’s 2008 report, the resulting front-page Washington Post exposé, and our 2010 detailed review of 33 alternative methods for which ICCVAM had inaccurately claimed credit. PETA called for the dismissal of ICCVAM head William Stokes, who, for more than a decade, undermined the use of scientifically reliable, humane, non-animal test methods.
Fortunately, in 2013, Dr. Warren Casey, director of NICEATM, was appointed director of ICCVAM, and under his leadership, a new vision and direction for ICCVAM has flourished. Its approach is designed to align with the vision laid out in the 2007 National Academy of Sciences report Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy. One of the first changes in ICCVAM procedure was to require that a member agency sponsor proposed assays or projects in order to ensure that the work done by ICCVAM would be aligned with the needs of the agencies. This is critical because it ensures that the methods the committee is evaluating will be implemented at the regulatory level. ICCVAM and NICEATM now work in partnership with federal agencies and other interested parties, including PETA, to develop and evaluate non-animal testing strategies.
In 2018, ICCVAM published a strategic plan to replace the use of animals in testing. PETA scientists attended meetings to help develop this plan and submitted extensive comments. The new roadmap incorporates our suggestions and recommends replacing tests on animals with non-animal approaches, which are more relevant to human health. Implementing this roadmap has the potential to prevent millions of animals from suffering and dying in toxicity tests.
We are optimistic that under the leadership of Dr. Casey, ICCVAM will continue to implement proactive and innovative approaches to developing and implementing non-animal testing methods throughout the government.