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Catching Up With the NA3RsC

Small Scientist on February 25, 2021
Hokulea and Meaghan.

After being elected to the Board of Directors by the North American 3Rs Collaborative, Scientist.com’s Category Director of In Vivo Services, Meaghan Loy participated in a virtual roundtable discussion with fellow NA3RsC members to seek out ways the group can help further its commitment to refine, reduce and replace animals used in research. Topics range from the group’s mission to upcoming initiatives to tackling issues in animal welfare. (You can find the list of respondents below the conversation).

What inspired you to join the NA3RsC?

Ben: My personal passion is to be able to play a part in increasing the clinical success rates of new therapies for neurological diseases. I believe a critical way to accomplish this is with more clinically predictive models used in the selection of new therapeutic candidates, specifically with microphysiological systems (MPS). Animal models will always be crucial in biomedical research, but new technologies can help us define the models that are most applicable in specific contexts of use so that we optimize our research to improve clinical translatability. I was initially approached by several NA3RsC board members to develop an initiative to raise awareness in the community and disseminate the amazing ways in which MPS can be integrated into research programs both now and as the technologies continue to develop in the future.

Megan: I am passionate about making real, impactful improvements to animal welfare. In the past, I’ve been able to help make change at one institution, which is wonderful. However, with NA3RsC I can help make those same changes at many institutions, which is even better. I can’t wait to see what we accomplish in the years to come.

Jessie: NA3RsC has always been on my radar as a prominent 3Rs organization. I’m excited that the U.S. has an established organization such as NA3RsC that focuses on the 3Rs and advances science in conjunction with research and animal welfare.

Sally: I was inspired to join when I heard about the very important work that the organization is planning to do to support advancements and improvements in science and animal welfare. I was very impressed how the organization has quickly been able to establish itself as a reliable and trustworthy leader encouraging and supporting appreciation of the 3Rs.

Lisa: I was introduced to the organization by another Board member. When I learned what the organization was doing to advance the 3Rs, I wanted to be a part of this incredibly important work. I have always believed the 3Rs was a responsibility for everyone working with animals in biomedical research. As the Lead of the 3Rs Initiative at my workplace, I wanted to be able to introduce the NA3RsC initiatives to my company. I highly regard the animals we work with. The biomedical research field is about change, innovation and progression. For me, these are important cornerstones of the 3Rs and therein the NA3RsC.

Meaghan: I first heard about the 3Rs when I worked with mice in college, but I didn’t really understand the importance until I was well into my career. After working with the UK-based NC3Rs for a bit, I found out there was a sister group in North American and was really keen to join. I see the NA3RsC as a way to make a big impact on the industry and reach a lot of people.

Alan: I saw a real need to be able to look across our industry to share best practices relating to alternatives, refinement and reduction in research.

Jennifer: I have worked in the biomedical research environment for over 20 years and have a strong interest in animal welfare. I have always admired the NC3Rs in the UK and never understood why we did not have a similar organization in the US. When I heard about the NA3RsC, I immediately contacted one of the Board Members to see how I could get involved! Just over 2 years ago I was voted in as Treasurer and my involvement with the Collaborative continues to grow!

The NA3RsC works with partners across academia, industry and more to ensure high-quality science while improving the lives of research animals.

What is your main goal for the group this year?

Jessie: I am really hoping that NA3RsC can extend its reach even further than it did in 2020. I am hoping we can have even more of a web presence and also a greater presence in the literature.

Sally: There are so many important goals that I am enthusiastic to support. I think one of the main ones is to increase awareness about how the 3Rs are incorporated into science.

Lisa: My main goal for the group this year is to be an engaged and helpful participant in the Animal Welfare/3Rs Certification Course. It is important to educate and recognize those that have a deep appreciation and knowledge of the 3Rs and motivate those already committed to the 3Rs to engage and teach those around them how to apply the principles to their research. I am also committed to grow and improve the visibility of the organization in any way I can.

Ben: With our initiatives now humming and making impacts in their respective areas, I am excited to be of assistance to our amazing staff, led by Dr. Megan LaFollette, in building a sustainable plan for the organization to grow and increase its impact in the future.

Meaghan: My main goal this year is really increasing awareness. I think that a strong digital and social presence is critical for groups such as ours. Luckily, I work for a company that is fantastic at creating awareness, so I’m excited for our groups to work together and get the word out.

Alan: Continue to make everyone aware of the progress being made.

Jennifer: Our growth over the last year has been phenomenal, and I’m hoping it continues in that direction. I want to help spread the word and watch us continue to grow!

What initiatives are you most interested in and why?

Jessie: Personally, I’m extremely excited about the 3Rs certification course — mainly for selfish reasons, so I can advance my own knowledge and experience in the 3Rs, but I am also very excited that this will become available to the public! When I was in my Master’s program, I had always hoped some time of certification or course like this existed.

Sally: I am very impressed with all of the initiatives and look forward to the certification training development. This will be an important opportunity to increase awareness and education across the research community.

Meaghan: Refinement has been one of my passions since I first started in the vivarium. I’m really excited to contribute to the knowledge repository and connect with my colleagues in the industry to gather and share information.

Alan: Spreading the word for what is going on.

Jennifer: With a strong interest in behavior management, I immediately joined the refinement initiative. Incorporating refinements into daily housing and husbandry practices and research procedures will enhance overall welfare and improve the scientific results. I am hopeful that resource pages that we are creating will benefit individuals from all types of organizations. I am also part of the 3Rs Certification initiative. Although this one of our newer initiatives, I think it will be an important one for the Collaborative, and I personally and am excited to see this take shape.

Ben: The NA3RsC MPS Initiative started with a small group of dedicated people, and now we are the first industry consortium in the MPS field, with 28 companies (and growing!) working together to advance the science and adoption of these technologies by researchers, drug developers and regulators around the world. I am excited to see the impact we can make together.

What role do you see the NA3RsC playing in our industry?

Sally: The NA3RsC are critically important to further idea sharing across academia. There are many projects that need to be promoted and concepts that need to be validated and shared so that we can continue to support scientific progress.

Lisa: I foresee the NA3RsC becoming an all-encompassing resource for North America, much as the NC3Rs is for the UK and other countries. I also believe the NA3RsC is on a path of growth and will offer 3Rs awards within North America once it becomes feasible.

Meaghan: I really hope to see the NA3RsC become THE hub for people working with laboratory animals in North America. As a knowledge repository, we can also help promote the latest research and developments so that the industry is aware of changes and can implement them as much as possible.

Alan: A resource for being able to provide the latest thinking in 3Rs.

Jennifer: I hope that we become the “hub” for information on the 3Rs in North America. Bringing people together from industry, non-profit, academia, etc. to discuss the impact of the 3Rs in research is so important.

The NA3RsC was set up to help scientists replace their use of animals and, where this is not possible, reduce the number of animals used and refine the care of the animals to keep pain and suffering to a minimum.

How does AW or the 3Rs impact your current role?

Jessie: Animal welfare and the 3Rs impact my work at AWIC daily. The main focus and mission of AWIC (as mandated in the Animal Welfare Act) is to promote the humane use and treatment of animals in research and were possible, help the scientific community incorporate the 3Rs into their research.

Sally: Both animal welfare and the 3Rs are part of the core of what I do and what I have been devoted to throughout my career. As a person that is trained specifically in the care and oversight of animals used in research, I feel that it is critical to always consider how we are caring for the animals and continuously refine our care as we learn more about the animals and their unique needs. We also have a responsibility to always look for opportunities to optimize our science and review and validate new methods as they become available.

Lisa: In my current role, I wear many hats as most do these days. Being the 3Rs Lead, and working in Veterinary Sciences as the IACUC Specialist at my institution, there are many areas that the 3Rs and Animal Welfare are integral to my role. It is a part of my role to provide resources and training materials. I provide resources and current 3Rs trends to the IACUC. The IACUC has supported many innovations and improvements to the program. Our technicians working with the animals are endlessly coming up with ideas for improved animal welfare and refinements. Our Global 3Rs Team advocates for implementing the 3Rs with their coworkers and are another resource to provide support of the application and implementation of the 3Rs.

Meaghan: I actually spend quite a bit of my time thinking about animal welfare and the 3Rs. In my current role I get to work with a variety of organizations across our industry including big pharma clients and CROs, so I have a very unique view into real-life research. I see animal welfare policies and procedures as a key quality indicator as well as just being the right thing to do.

Alan: As a regulatory scientist, I’m always looking for the latest thoughts on 3Rs and the science/data behind any advances.

Jennifer: I am the Training Coordinator at a National Primate Center. I work with all staff that plan to work with animals. No matter their role, or the species they are working with, it is critical for individuals in this environment to receive proper training. During onboarding, staff learn about the natural history of the animals they are working with as well as their species’ typical behavior. Hands on animal procedures are trained correctly at the start and any refinements incorporated so the person is comfortable as well as the animal. Human behavior has an impact on animal behavior and welfare, and understanding this connection is important.

Who do you think will benefit from the resources provided by the NA3RsC?

Ben: In the short to medium term, I believe preclinical drug discovery programs will benefit with better designed studies and models to improve clinical translation. I also believe academic and industry scientists alike will benefit with resources aimed to improve reproducibility and ensure that animal and in vitro studies are done optimally, the first time. The NA3RsC’s efforts ultimately lead to more efficient, more translational science that benefits not only the animals on whom testing is performed but most importantly, the patients and society for whom our research is designed to benefit.

Jessie: I think the research community will definitely benefit, but others will as well, like librarians (like myself) who are looking for information on the 3Rs outside of the traditional databases. I also think the information NA3RsC can share will be of interest to the general public and those interested or curious animal welfare in research

Sally: I think that everyone could have the potential to benefit from the NA3RsC. The scientists can benefit from the state-of-the-art science that is shared. The animal caregivers can benefit from the knowledge sharing and hearing of new ideas. The compliance oriented people benefit from seeing how the 3Rs can be incorporated and support compliance. Institutions can benefit from being a part of an organization that is cutting edge in its ideas and outreach. The person who is trying to get knowledge about animal research and its role in science can see firsthand the efforts of a group of people with varied backgrounds working together to advance animal welfare and science. And, of course, the animal welfare specialist that can have a resource with reliable, scientifically validated data to refer to and a venue to discuss the topic. The animals will benefit as we continue our commitment to refinement, reduction and replacement of animals in research.

Lisa: The resources benefit everyone in the biomedical industry. Between the resources on the website, the initiative groups, the webinars, conferences, etc., the NA3RsC has something for absolutely everyone. Frankly, everyone should sign up to receive the newsletters to benefit from all their resources. Every institution involved in biomedical research should support this organization in every way possible because it will soon become the “Go-To” organization and resource for all things related to the 3Rs.

Alan: Any scientist trying to do the best science when using animals.

Jennifer: I think anyone in this industry will benefit from these resources, and I would encourage folks to get involved if they have a particular interest in ANY of our initiatives!

Respondents

Benjamin D. Cappiello, BSE

  • NA3RsC President
  • Chief Business Officer, AxoSim, Inc.

Megan LaFollette, MS, PhD

  • NA3RsC Fellow

Jessie Kull, MS

  • NA3RsC Board of Directors
  • Supervisory Technical Information Specialist, Animal Welfare Information Center

Dr. Sally Thompson Iritani, DVM/PhD, CPIA, CCFP

  • NA3RsC Vice President-Elect
  • Director (Interim), Washington National Primate Research Center, University of Washington

Lisa Stanislawczyk, BS

  • NA3RsC Past President
  • Animal Welfare Assurance, Bristol-Myers Squibb

Meaghan Loy, MS, ALAT

  • NA3RsC Board of Directors
  • Category Director, In Vivo Services, Scientist.com

Dr. Alan Hoberman, PhD

  • NA3RsC Board of Directors
  • Executive Director of Global Developmental, Reproductive, & Juvenile Toxicology, Charles River Laboratories

Jennifer McMillan, CMAR

  • NA3RsC Treasurer
  • Training Coordinator, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University