Charu Chandrasekera behind microphoneCharu Chandrasekera, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods, testifies before the House of Commons committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Push from UWindsor centre contributes to shift towards non-animal toxicity testing

Advocacy from the University of Windsor’s Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods (CCAAM) has helped shape a bill that received royal assent Tuesday.

Bill S-5, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, includes revisions requiring the federal government to replace and reduce animals in chemical toxicity testing and to publish a plan within the next two years promoting the development and timely incorporation of alternative strategies for toxicity testing.

CCAAM executive director Charu Chandrasekera was invited to testify as an expert witness in front of the House of Commons’ Environment and Sustainable Development committee and contributed language that was adopted in the final version of the Bill.

“Our current reliance on animal toxicity testing is based on techniques developed decades ago,” said Dr. Chandrasekera, one of the 71 witnesses who spoke at the Standing Committee.

“Fortunately, the world is witnessing a global shift, embracing a versatile toolbox full of 21st-century technologies like organ-on-a-chip, 3D bioprinted tissue, and computational models to emulate human biology in a petri dish.

“With this landmark legislation, Canada now stands on the cusp of transformation, ready to leap forward into a new era of research and innovation to better protect human health and the environment.”

The amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act require the government to support the development and incorporation of scientifically justified alternative methods to replace, reduce, or refine (minimize pain and distress) the use of vertebrate animals in chemical substance testing and assessment. 

They also restrict the generation of data or investigations using vertebrate animals for assessing toxicity or the need to control substances unless it is not reasonably possible to obtain the data or conduct the investigation by other means, and it is necessary to protect the environment or human health.

Chris Houser, interim UWindsor vice-president of research and innovation, said the amendments also include provisions to promote the development and implementation of non-animal methods that provide sufficient information for assessing risks posed by substances.

“The amendments to Bill S-5 will position the Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods at the forefront of Canada’s transformation towards modernized toxicity testing, shifting from animal-based methods to cutting-edge approaches based on human biology,” Dr. Houser said.

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