Beyond Animal Testing: A Canadian Vision Toward Replacement

MONDAY, APRIL 23
10:30AM-12:00PM

SPEAKER:
Dr. Charu Chandrasekera, Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods / Canadian Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods, University of Windsor

ABSTRACT:
Animal experimentation has been the foundation of biomedical research and product safety testing to date. Despite the wealth of knowledge obtained over a century of extensive animal research conducted at enormous expense, mechanisms still remain unclear and effective treatments remain elusive and a failure-prone endeavour for even the most prevalent diseases today – many breakthroughs in research labs do not make it into our clinics. Similarly, for chemical safety risk assessment, the legacy animal-based methods are not sufficiently reliable to accurately predict adverse outcomes on human health and the environment.

From the Americas to the Far East, countries across the globe boast alternatives centres, but Canada had lagged behind, until now: the first Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods (CCAAM), and its subsidiary, the Canadian Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (CCVAM) were officially launched at the University of Windsor in October 2017. This presentation will provide a historical overview and the current state of affairs in animal experimentation as well as animal replacement efforts and future perspectives on why we must use Homo sapiens as the gold standard for 21st century biomedical research, education and regulatory testing.

Furthermore, it will include an overview of CCAAM/CaCVAM, with the vision to promote the replacement of animals in Canadian biomedical research, education and regulatory testing through 21st century science, innovation and ethics. Through our multifaceted interdisciplinary collaborative partnerships among national and international academic, industry, government and public sectors, we will enhance the Canadian replacement landscape while contributing to global replacement efforts in a uniquely Canadian way.

KEY LEARNINGS:

  1. Historical overview and the current state of animal experimentation.
  2. Animal replacement efforts and future perspectives on humans serving as the gold standard in medical research and toxicity testing.
  3. Overarching vision of the Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods to shift away from animal testing in Canada.

BIO:
Dr. Charu Chandrasekera is the primary architect responsible for designing and developing the Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods from a back-of-the-envelope idea to reality. She is an internationally-established professional with expertise in human-based biomedical research, science policy and ethics of animal experimentation. She received her PhD in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary and completed her post-doctoral training at the University of Michigan Medical School and Wayne State University School of Medicine in Michigan. During her research endeavours in heart failure and diabetes, which involved both in vitro cellular models and in vivo animal models, Dr. Chandrasekera experienced first-hand the limitations that render animals ineffective as "models" for human disease. With this realization, Dr. Chandrasekera left conventional academic research in 2013 and joined the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine as their Director of Laboratory Science to promote alternatives. Her recent work has been published in various peer-reviewed scientific journals, and she has been invited to present her work and provide expertise at national and international conferences, symposia and workshops.