Research into alternative methods can help decrease animal testing in the future, reduce the number of animals used, or minimise the animals’ pain and distress. © Unsplash/Sinigersky

Understanding diseases, testing medicines, and producing vaccines—studies on animals are still an indispensable part of medical research. High legal and ethical standards apply in Austria. For instance, animal testing may not be conducted if other validated alternative methods are available. However, the number of these alternatives is limited; therefore, intensive research into alternative methods is required. To speed up the establishment of such alternative methods, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) is awarding “Alternative Methods to Animal Testing” research grants. Proposals can be submitted to the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).

Animal testing provides science and research with valuable data. Researchers, however, always enter an ethical grey zone when they conduct animal experiments. On the one hand, animal testing produces results that can ultimately benefit humans, animals, or the environment, but on the other hand, there is the issue of animal protection and welfare—a dilemma which can be reduced by the increased use of alternative methods.

Funded projects should broaden the range of alternative methods

To expand the range of alternative methods, including the use of biochips, cell cultures, and computer simulations, the BMBWF is offering funding for research into novel and pioneering approaches. The aim is to help get research ideas off the ground for the purpose of developing alternative methods and improving animal welfare.

Basic research according to the 3Rs principles (replace, reduce, refine)

The focus of the “Alternative Methods to Animal Testing (3Rs: replace, reduce, refine)” funding programme is basic research in line with the 3Rs principles. Funding is available for research proposals whose results contribute either to completely replacing animal testing (replacement), reducing the number of animals used (reduction), or minimising the animals’ pain and distress (refinement). The annually awarded research grants are open to researchers from all disciplines.

Great responsibility in the use of animals in research

For many years now, the BMBWF has been working together with numerous research institutions and the scientific community to establish and maintain high ethical standards for animal care and use. In Austria, the practice of animal testing is strictly regulated by the Animal Testing Act 2012 (TVG 2012). In addition, Austrian universities, research institutions, and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) recently signed a joint commitment to responsible animal testing last year.

Proposals accepted starting 15 March 2021

The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) invites researchers from all disciplines to submit innovative research proposals for these BMBWF-funded research grants. The application period will open on 15 March 2021 and close on 17 May 2021. The FWF will evaluate each proposal’s excellence of research and potential impact on the 3Rs through an international quality assurance review. Approved projects will be able to commence in January 2022.

You can find more about the programme "Alternative Methods to Animal Testing" here

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