Animal Welfare Enhancement (AWE) Awards
One of the ways CAAT promotes the “R” of refinement is through our Animal Welfare Enhancement (AWE) Awards. The focus of these awards is to improve housing, handling and/or experimental situations for laboratory animals. These grants are intended for those who actually work hands-on with the animals, such as laboratory and animal technicians. Each award is for $6,000, with funding provided through donor support.The AWE awards have an impact well beyond the recipients themselves. AWE winners consistently note that colleagues and co-workers become interested in their refinement efforts and in the positive impact on the research and on the animals in their care. AWE winners have spread the word to broader audiences as well. For the past three years, several awardees have presented their findings at the annual PRIM&R (Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research) conference designed for those involved with Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCS). For more information and a list of past AWE award winners, please visit the AWE page.
Altweb, the Alternatives to Animal Testing Website, is at the heart of CAAT’s communication program. It has served as the global clearinghouse of 3Rs-related information and resources for more than a decade now.
One of Altweb’s key roles is to help both experienced and young scientists search for alternatives to the use of animals. The Altweb “Search for Alternatives” section offers a detailed, step-by-step approach to the search process.
In January 2008, CAAT launched a special Altweb section on refinement, designed to organize and synthesize a wealth of information on the recognition, assessment, alleviation, and prevention of pain and distress in laboratory animals. The section provides introductory text explaining each topic in non-technical language, followed by a set of links to relevant databases, websites, books, articles, and abstracts.
Altweb remains the most comprehensive guide to alternatives on the Web, drawing an average of 16,000 unique visitors every month from 125 countries. New visitors make up 82% of the traffic, indicating a growing interest in alternatives; while a core 12% of visits are from researchers and scientists who use the site on a regular basis. Altweb is also the top-ranked site in major search engines for users searching for “alternatives to animal testing.”
In 2006, CAAT introduced the TestSmart DNT Program, as stakeholders agreed on the critical need for accelerated chemical evaluation and information on DNT because very few chemicals had been fully evaluated for their potential to cause developmental neurotoxicity. In January 2007 the TestSmart DNT meeting report, Alternatives for Developmental Neurotoxicity Testing (available on line at: www.ehponline.org) was released, providing a synthesis of the discussions and recommendations, and an evaluation of the goals and objectives set by participants. The report concluded that the program achieved its primary objective: to bring together the stakeholders and individuals from diverse scientific disciplines to examine the initial TestSmart DNT goals and to share ideas and concerns as they relate to the science and policy of DNT.
TestSmart DNT 2 assessed the recommendations established through DNT 1 and progress in DNT alternatives, outlined continuing goals, and initiated new ones. The purpose of TestSmart DNT 2 was to develop the intended outcome: batteries of methods for developmental neurotoxicity testing. The report and recommendations from DNT2 can be found here; planning for DNT3 are now under way.
Research Grants Program
CAAT’s research grants program is the centerpiece of our work to develop alternatives to the use of animals in biomedical research and product safety testing, providing critical seed money for scientists interested in developing alternative methods. To date, the Center has funded over 300 grants (including renewals) for a total of more than $6 million. At its annual fall meeting, CAAT’s Advisory Board members review applications to the research grant program, allowing members the opportunity to consider cutting-edge research and technology in its early stages of development. For 2008/9, CAAT awarded eleven grants relating to refinement, developmental toxicology, immunotoxicology, and translational toxicology. The CAAT research grants program costs approximately $250,000 per year and is funded entirely through contributions from companies and foundations.
CAAT Program Projects
CAAT program projects offer a more focused mechanism than individual grants for furthering specific areas of interest. Program projects generally are funded by a single sponsor for a minimum of three years in a research area of interest to the sponsor. Under the program project, a minimum of three applications are funded per year, and the investigators are required to attend project meetings twice a year with sponsor representatives, CAAT staff, and Johns Hopkins faculty. These workshops take the form of informal, interactive laboratory meetings where information is exchanged, progress reported and future direction discussed. These workshops have, in the past, fostered collaborations among the investigators that ultimately resulted in joint publications and the establishment of long-term relationships.
A CAAT program project costs $200,000 per year, for a minimum of three years. Previous program projects focused on the areas of allergic contact dermatitis, neurotoxicity, and corneal wound healing.
In order to meet the needs of industry and government agencies, CAAT has developed a new academic research training program called the CAAT Scholars. This unique initiative allows post-doctoral fellows to work in selected laboratories throughout the University to focus on developing methods that are mechanistically based. The CAAT Scholars Program will train a new breed of toxicologist, skilled in translating basic research and discovery into practice—i.e. translational toxicology. These scholars will be trained to identify examples of translational research that will contribute to the public health solutions of tomorrow.
CAAT's full roster of academic programs can be found here.
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