Thomas Hartung, MD, PhD, Director of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Marcel Leist, PhD, co-director with Hartung of CAAT-Europe and Chair of the department of In Vitro Toxicology and Biomedicine at the University of Konstanz, have been selected to receive the Ursula M. Händel Animal Welfare Prize by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation). The €80,000 prize is awarded to researchers who improve research animal welfare in line with the principles known as the 3Rs of alternatives: Replacement (of animal experiments with non-animal methods), Reduction (of the numbers of animals used for a particular experiment), and Refinement (reducing pain and distress of laboratory animals).

This award honors the life’s work of both scientists in making major contributions to animal welfare. Hartung was recognized for using artificial intelligence (“read-across”) to predict the toxicity of chemicals without using animals. Instead of using animals, data from a particular chemical is compared to similar chemical structures in toxicological databases to determine possible toxicity. 

The awardees were also recognized for their international networking with multiple international stakeholders (researchers, regulatory authorities, non-governmental organizations, and industry) to advance the acceptance of alternative methods.

The two winners were chosen from among nine nominees and will use the prize money of €80,000 to enable early career scientists to perform research in the 3Rs. The award ceremony is scheduled for October 1st, 2020, at the Interdisciplinary Centre for 3Rs in Animal Research (ICAR3R).

Thomas Hartung has been director of CAAT and co-director of CAAT-Europe since 2009. He has received many prizes for his research work, such as the US Society of Toxicology Enhancement of Animal Welfare Award and the Russell and Burch award of the Humane Society of the United States.

Marcel Leist has been co-director of CAAT-Europe since its foundation in 2009. Leist has received several prizes for his work, including the Animal Welfare Research Award from the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. 

The Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT), founded in 1981, is part of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, with a European branch (CAAT-Europe) located at the University of Kostanz, Germany. CAAT promotes humane science by supporting the creation, development, validation, and use of alternatives to animals in research, product safety testing, and education. 

The Ursula M. Händel Animal Welfare Prize goes back to the initiative of the founder of that name. A resident of Düsseldorf, Ursula M. Händel (1915–2011) championed animal welfare over several decades. Dedicated to animal welfare in science and research, Händel provided the DFG with the financial backing for the animal welfare prize. The prize is awarded every two years. 

Information about the prize, its founder Ursula M. Händel, and the prizewinners can be found a the official press release from DFG.

Press Release from the Doerenkamp-Zbinden Foundation.