IFER Approves Funding for Two New Graduate Fellowships
After reviewing a record number of proposals, the International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER), founded by NAVS in 1985, is pleased to announce that its Board of Directors has approved funding for three Graduate Fellowships for Alternatives to the Use of Animals in Science this year. The purpose of the fellowship program is to provide financial incentives to graduate students in science, encouraging them at the earliest stages of their careers to integrate innovation and discovery with ethics and respect for animals. These research projects have the potential to change the course of science and make a positive difference for countless animals who will be spared the suffering of experimentation while ensuring that science advances.
Georgina Harris, a PhD student at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health was awarded a Graduate Fellowship for her project entitled “Identification of pathways of developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) of environmental chemicals by omics technologies.” Her research efforts are currently focused on developing and optimizing in vitro toxicity testing methods as well as studying key molecular events which determine toxicity. Georgina will be using a human three-dimensional cell model combined with miRNomic, transcriptomic and metabolomic approaches to assess DNT. Ultimately, the goal of her research is to develop a high-throughput in vitro test for the identification and evaluation of pathways of toxicity that lead to perturbations in brain development and increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders. Georgina will be working under Dr. Thomas Hartung, an internationally recognized toxicologist and Director of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
David Tran, a PhD candidate at the University of California-Irvine (UCI), was also awarded an IFER Graduate Fellowship for his project, “Development of a patient-specific high-throughput cardiac drug-screening platform.” Using human induced pluripotent stem cells as a source for human cardiomyocytes, David will create an in vitro model that closely resembles human heart tissue used for examining the pharmacokinetics and toxicity of drugs. Development of such a model is critical, as a significant portion of rejected drugs fail in humans because of cardiotoxic side effects not evident in animal models. David’s mentor, Dr. Steven George, is a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at UCI and is the Director of the Edwards Lifesciences Center for Advanced Cardiovascular Technology.
IFER is also proud to announce that it renewed funding for a project entitled “In Vitro Prediction of Skeletal Teratogenicity of Environmental Chemicals” by Nicole R. L. Sparks from the University of California-Riverside. Nicole has made impressive progress in her efforts to develop a reliable in vitro developmental toxicity screening assay to replace traditional animal methods and improve in vitro screening by utilizing differentiating human induced pluripotent stem cells to model the developing skeleton.