National Anti-Vivisection Society and International Foundation for Ethical Research Announce Renewal of Research Grants for Promising Young Investigators

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Three early career scientists selected to receive renewed funding for work involving alternatives to animal experimentation.

The National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) and the International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER) are pleased to announce that three recipients of IFER Graduate Fellowships have been selected to have their grants renewed as part of the 2014-2015 grant cycle. By funding early career researchers with an interest in developing innovative alternatives to animal experiments, NAVS and IFER hope to seed the scientific field with talented individuals prepared to integrate scientific discovery with ethics and respect for animals.

Recipients of IFER Graduate Fellowships, selected by IFER’s Scientific Advisory Board, have the potential to positively change the course of science by working to promote the advancement of humane methodologies that can spare animal suffering.

The IFER Graduate Fellowship recipients whose grants have been renewed for 2014-2015 are:

Georgina Harris, a Ph.D. student working with Dr. Lena Smirnova and Dr. Thomas Hartung at the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, will be receiving her second year of support from IFER for her project, “Identification of pathways of developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) of environmental chemicals by omics technologies.” Georgina’s project aims to establish methods for assessing developmental neurotoxicity in vitro using human cells. As current strategies to evaluate DNT rely heavily on animal models which lack human-relevance, raise ethical concerns and are expensive, Georgina’s work has the potential to revolutionize DNT studies while reducing the use of animals in this area. Her work has caught the attention of researchers worldwide, as she was recently invited to present her research at the 9th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences in Prague, Czech Republic.

Nicole Sparks, a Ph.D. student under the mentorship of Dr. Nicole l. zur Nieden at the University of California, Riverside, is in her third year of funding from IFER for her project “In Vitro Prediction of Skeletal Teratogenicity of Environmental Chemicals.” Nicole continues to make impressive progress in her efforts to develop a method which uses human stem cells to accurately predict and identify compounds that can cause skeletal abnormalities during development. As existing tests of this nature rely on animals and have low predictability for human effects, the need for a human-relevant in vitro skeletal embryotoxicity screen has never been greater.

David Tran, a Ph.D. student working under Dr. Steven George at the University of California, Irvine, has received a second year of IFER support for his project, “Development of a patient-specific high-throughput cardiac drug-screening platform.” David has been generating an in vitro model using human induced pluripotent stem cells as a source for human cardiomyocytes to examine the pharmacokinetics and toxicity of drugs. Over the past year, his model has undergone several changes to improve its functionality and enable it to better characterize the effects of drugs on heart function. Development of such a model is critical, as a significant portion of rejected drugs fail in humans as a result of cardiotoxic side effects not evident in animal models.

IFER Graduate Fellowships are awarded annually in amounts up to $15,000 to early career scientists who are developing alternatives to the use of animals in product testing, biomedical research and education. Fellowships are renewable for up to three years. More information on the IFER Graduate Fellowship Program can be found at http://www.ifer.org/fellowships.php.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL ANTI-VIVISECTION SOCIETY
Founded in 1929, the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) promotes greater compassion, respect and justice for animals through educational and advocacy programs based on respected ethical, scientific and legal theory. NAVS works to increase public awareness about animal experimentation, to promote positive solutions that advance science, to support the development of alternatives to the use of animals, and to effect changes that will help end the unnecessary suffering of animals. For more information, visit http://www.navs.org.

ABOUT THE INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR ETHICAL RESEARCH
Founded in 1985, the International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER) supports the development, validation and implementation of innovative scientific methodologies that advance science and replace the use of animals in research, testing and education. IFER is funded primarily by a grant from the National Anti-Vivisection Society.

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Garett Auriemma
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