Assuring safety without animal testing: Unilever’s ongoing research programme to deliver novel ways to assure consumer safety

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Carl Westmoreland
Paul Carmichael
Matt Dent
Julia Fentem
Cameron MacKay
Gavin Maxwell
Camilla Pease
Fiona Reynolds

Abstract

Assuring consumer safety without the generation of new animal data is currently a considerable challenge. However, through the application of new technologies and the further development of risk-based approaches for safety assessment, we remain confident it is ultimately achievable. For many complex, multi-organ consumer safety endpoints, the development, evaluation and application of new, non-animal approaches is hampered by a lack of biological understanding of the underlying mechanistic processes involved. The enormity of this scientific challenge should not be underestimated.
To tackle this challenge a substantial research programme was initiated by Unilever in 2004 to critically evaluate the feasibility of a new conceptual approach based upon the following key components:
1. Developing new, exposure-driven risk assessment approaches
2. Developing new biological (in vitro) and computer-based (in silico) predictive models
3. Evaluating the applicability of new technologies for generating data (e.g. “omics”, informatics) and for integrating new types of data (e.g. systems approaches) for risk-based safety assessment.
Our research efforts are focussed in the priority areas of skin allergy, cancer and general toxicity (including inhaled toxicity). In all of these areas, a long-term investment is essential to increase the scientific understanding of the underlying biology and molecular mechanisms that we believe will ultimately form a sound basis for novel risk assessment approaches.
Our research programme in these priority areas consists of in-house research as well as Unilever sponsored academic research, involvement in EU-funded projects (e.g. Sens-it-iv, Carcinogenomics), participation in cross-industry collaborative research (e.g. Colipa, EPAA) and ongoing involvement with other scientific initiatives on non-animal approaches to risk assessment (e.g. UK NC3Rs, US “Human Toxicology Project” consortium).

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How to Cite
Westmoreland, C., Carmichael, P., Dent, M., Fentem, J., MacKay, C., Maxwell, G., Pease, C. and Reynolds, F. (2010) “Assuring safety without animal testing: Unilever’s ongoing research programme to deliver novel ways to assure consumer safety”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation, 27(3), pp. 207-211. doi: 10.14573/altex.2010.3.207.
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