AAALAC (Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care) International is an independent, non-profit organisation that promotes the humane treatment of animals in science through voluntary evaluation and accreditation programmes. More than a thousand institutions, including pharmaceutical companies, universities and biotech firms in 50 countries, have been accredited by AAALAC International. Several research sites belonging to Interpharma member companies have also been certified by AAALAC International. Interpharma has had a seat in the delegation of member organisations since 2013 and a seat on the Board of Directors since 2020. It is thus able to directly influence the promotion of independent animal welfare certification programmes. To ensure that research with animals and animal care are monitored and conducted in accordance with tried and tested procedures, AAALAC International has more than 360 ad hoc consultants who accompany committee members during on-site visits and make recommendations. These consultants – some of whom work for Interpharma member companies – can offer expertise that extends beyond conventional laboratory animal species and can in some cases provide additional expertise in fields such as applied neuroscience, behavioural science, toxicology, pharmacology and physiology.
Project name: AAALAC International
Charter articles: 2, 7
Member companies of Interpharma work in the IQ Consortium (International Consortium for Innovation and Quality) and participate in its 3Rs Leadership Group. This group was established to promote the sharing and adoption of high-quality scientific practices and thus to advance the 3Rs principles in animal research conducted as part of the discovery and development of new medicines, vaccines, medical devices and health products for use in humans and animals.
The European Liaison Working Group, a subgroup with which Interpharma maintains official contact, promotes the sharing of 3Rs expertise and their mutual interest in similar objectives being pursued both in the USA and in Europe.
In addition to a global 3Rs award programme, the group also offers 3Rs training and continuing education courses.
Project name: IQ Consortium
Charter articles: 1, 3, 9
Interpharma Animal Welfare Working Group
The Animal Welfare Working Group is one of Interpharma’s seven permanent working groups. Various company representatives plus a representative from the University of Zurich meet regularly to address the ongoing improvement of animal welfare and the promotion of the 3Rs. In accordance with the 10-point charter launched in 2010, this group undertakes to produce an annual report on its activities and advances in the area of the 3Rs and animal welfare.
Project name: Interpharma Animal Welfare Working Group
Charter articles: 1, 10
EFPIA network for animal welfare
Member companies of Interpharma contribute ideas for high animal welfare standards at a pan-European level in the EFPIA Research and Animal Welfare (RAW) Group. One of the primary functions of this group is to collaborate actively in efforts to implement EU Animal Welfare Directive 2010/63 in EU member states. Implementation of this directive was reviewed by the European Commission in 2017 and found to provide a solid regulatory foundation for the welfare of animals used for scientific purposes. The group also advocates the open exchange of ideas and effective collaboration with other organisations that support research in the area of the 3Rs. EFPIA also publishes an annual 3Rs report online.
Project name: EFPIA network for animal welfare
Charter articles: 1, 2, 8, 9
3Rs Competence Centre (3RCC)
The national 3Rs Competence Centre (3RCC) was founded on 27 March 2018 to promote the 3Rs principles in Switzerland. In addition to 11 universities, participants in the 3RCC include Interpharma, Swiss Animal Protection and the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO).
The Centre’s objectives are to fund high-quality 3Rs research projects, develop a strategy for 3Rs-based training and continuing education, and establish a professional communications strategy. The 3RCC gives all participants access to the latest information on the 3Rs and alternatives to animal experiments. The centre offers its services to authorities, teaching and educational institutions and other interested groups. It also monitors the progress achieved in these areas in Switzerland. Before the national centre was established, 3Rs research projects were supported and funded by the 3Rs Research Foundation Switzerland for over 30 years. From the outset, the Foundation was financed equally by the federal government and Interpharma. In 2021, the Swiss government launched the National Research Programme “Advancing 3Rs – Animals, Research and Society” (NRP 79), providing funding of CHF 20 million in the period up to 2028 for the purpose of accelerating the development of 3Rs applications.
Project name: 3RCC
Charter articles: 1, 3, 9
ICH (International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use) brings the pharmaceutical industry together with regulatory authorities from Europe, Japan and the USA to discuss scientific and technical aspects of pharmaceutical product registration. The purpose of the ICH is to harmonise the tests used during the research and development of new medicines and the technical standards and requirements for product registration.
The aim of standardisation is to ensure that resources are deployed more cost-effectively and to eliminate unnecessary delays in the global development and availability of new medicines.
The harmonisation process is complex and can take several years. It covers quality, safety (the category covering animal experiments), efficacy and multidisciplinary fields.
Project name: ICH
Charter articles: 1, 8
Verein Forschung für Leben
The independent Forschung für Leben (Research for Life) association was founded with the aim of informing the Swiss population about the importance of and latest results from biomedical research.
The idea is to foster dialogue between scientists and the lay public and to explain in clear and straightforward language not only the benefits but also the hazards of research. In addition to regularly publishing the “BioFokus” brochure and granting awards to high-school students for baccalaureate projects, the association can also provide a “gene laboratory” to any schools that are interested.
Interpharma works together with the association on animal experiments and welfare in particular.
Project name: Verein Forschung für Leben
Charter articles: 1, 3, 9
Joint audits of Interpharma member companies
Research institutions that conduct animal experiments on behalf of Interpharma members – including their partner companies and subsidiaries – undertake to comply with technical and ethical standards of care and housing for laboratory animals. Some Interpharma member companies conduct regular, pre-announced, joint audits of external research partners and breeders all over the world. These audits not only serve to ensure harmonised standards and safeguard animal welfare, but also help to develop expertise. The dialogue that takes place facilitates optimal implementation of legal requirements and simplifies further-reaching efforts to apply the 3Rs. The audit results are jointly discussed within the member companies in confidence.
The decision on whether to enter into a business relationship with the audited organisation rests with the individual company. In addition to conducting joint audits, member companies verify compliance with defined quality standards within individual procedures at their own research institutions around the world.
All the criteria verified are documented in writing and apply worldwide.
Project name: Interpharma audits
Charter articles: 4–6
Dialogue with Swiss Animal Protection
Interpharma has held dialogue meetings with Swiss Animal Protection (SAP) for more than eight years. viva3R and the Zurich animal protection group Zürcher Tierschutz also started attending meetings some years ago. The twice-yearly meetings serve to encourage mutual understanding, explore animal welfare issues and address technical issues associated with animal experiments and laboratory animal welfare.
An open dialogue to which politicians are additionally invited is also taking place for the second time. The focus of this year’s dialogue is the 3Rs.
Project name: Dialogue with SAP
Charter articles: 9
Swiss Transparency Agreement on Animal Research (STAAR)
STAAR set itself the aim of improving communication and transparency with regard to the use of animals in research. STAAR includes both public and private organisations that conduct experiments with animals, support such experiments and/or fund them, and institutions that breed and provide animals. Interpharma has been a member of STAAR since 2021.
Project name: Dialogue with STAAR
Charter articles: 9