Meet the Humane Science “Class of 2017”


Continuing our longstanding investment in ending the exploitation of animals used in science, NAVS and the International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER) are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2016-2017 Graduate Fellowships for Alternatives to the Use of Animals in Science. These fellowships recognize and support outstanding graduate students who are working to promote the advancement of humane methodologies that can spare animal suffering.

Thanks to your generosity and commitment to advancing science without harming animals, fellowships have been awarded this year to fund three new graduate student projects, the renewal of three previously-awarded fellowships and an IFER Special Merit Award.

This week’s Science First highlights the projects of the three new IFER Graduate Fellowship recipients.


T.J. Puls

Purdue University, Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering

Mentor: Dr. Sherry Voytik-Harbin

Engineering Novel 3D Tumor-Stroma to Bridge the Gap Between Preclinical Models and Human Clinical Outcomes”

Existing cancer models, such as xenograft mouse models, lack physiological relevance and as a result, often fail to predict human clinical outcomes. To overcome these limitations, T.J. will be developing a sophisticated, human-relevant cancer model that focuses on pancreatic cancer, a type of cancer associated with poor prognosis, even when diagnosed early. With IFER funding, he will be creating a three-dimensional, cell-based model that incorporates elements of the tumor microenvironment (the cells, blood vessels and molecules surrounding the tumor), a model that aims to reduce animal use by giving more predictive power to cell-based studies.


Erica Warkus

University of Hawaii

Mentor: Dr. Yusuke Marikawa

“In vitro embryoid body morphogenesis to reduce animal usage burdens in teratogenicity testing and pharmaceutical drug development”

Erica will be developing a stem cell-based approach to detecting teratogens, substances that can cause birth defects. She will be using aggregated stem cells, called embryoid bodies, to mimic the process of embryonic development. The cells will be exposed to different doses of chemicals—those considered safe and those known to be teratogens—and changes in embryoid body shape will be monitored to see if the test can effectively detect teratogens. Erica and her mentor hope to validate their model so that it can be used to replace and reduce animal models which are traditionally used for these tests.


Danh Truong

Arizona State University

Mentor: Dr. Mehdi Nikkhah

“Studying the biochemical and biophysical influences of fibroblasts on cancer invasion in a tumor-stroma on a chip”

Danh recognized that many promising drug candidates for breast cancer fail in human clinical trials—in part because preclinical models do not accurately mimic interactions between the tumor and its microenvironment. With support from IFER, Danh will be creating a breast cancer model which aims to better understand these interactions and will investigate how they affect tumor growth and invasion. His model will also be used to study the responsiveness of cancer cells to drugs. Having a sophisticated cell-based model that incorporates interactions between the tumor and its microenvironment will advance our understanding of cancer progression and support efforts to discover potential effective treatments without the use of animals.

Congratulations to this year’s IFER Graduate Fellowship recipients, and thank you to all of the graduate students who submitted applications.

Our ability to support outstanding graduate students dedicated to developing animal-free alternatives is limited only by our available funding. This year, for example, IFER could only award grants to a fraction of the promising research proposals that we received because of a lack of sufficient resources. Please consider making a donation today to help NAVS and IFER continue funding smarter, human-relevant science that does not harm animals.

This entry was posted in News and tagged on October 31, 2016.
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