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 2019-2020 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, this year, fellowships have been awarded to fund three new graduate student projects and the renewal of three previously-awarded projects.
The three new Graduate Fellowship recipients are:
Sarah Stuart, University of Melbourne, Royal Melbourne Hospital
“Using brain tumor organoids to evaluate efficacy of novel inhibitors”
Sarah’s project seeks to establish a large, patient-derived organoid collection to screen drugs to treat glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer. She will acquire resected glioblastoma tumors from surgeons at Royal Melbourne Hospital and will generate fifty organoid cultures over the course of her funding. She plans to screen seven new and FDA-approved drugs using these cell models and will then determine if the drugs inhibit critical signaling pathways in the organoids. Sarah’s project will enable the study of glioblastoma in a human-relevant way and has the potential to reduce reliance on glioblastoma animal models on a large scale, as the brain tumor organoids generated from her project will be shared with national and international collaborators.
Ilona Sunyovski, National Heart and Lung Institute, London
“Vascularized three-dimensional constructs for CRISPR/dCas9-monitored cardiac maturation in vitro”
While heart muscle cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells have the potential to generate reliable in vitro heart models, researchers are finding that using current approaches, the cells often do not function like mature heart cells. With funding from IFER, Ilona will try to overcome this issue and generate more mature cardiac tissue. Using 3-D printing, she will generate a model that incorporates elements that better mimic the natural environment surrounding heart cells to facilitate their maturation. Such a model would greatly contribute to the reduction and replacement of animals currently used for cardiac research and therapeutic development.
Aline Zbiden, University of Tubingen, Germany
“Towards clinical studies on mature β-cell drug testing platform”
In individuals with diabetes, insulin-producing beta cells are either dysfunctional or depleted, impairing the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels. In this research proposal, Aline seeks to create an in vitro diabetes model, using organ-on-a-chip technology, to overcome the scientific and ethical limitations of using animal models for these studies. She will generate functional insulin-producing beta cells from induced pluripotent stem cells and mature them in vitro, circumventing the commonly used maturation process of implanting pancreatic progenitors into animal models, such as rodents. Aline will then incorporate the beta cells into a pancreas-on-a-chip, creating a human-relevant platform for drug testing, which will reduce the need for animal models for this condition.
Congratulations to this year’s 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. Please consider making a donation today to help NAVS and IFER continue funding smarter, human-relevant science that does not harm animals.
Pictured: 2018-2019 NAVS/IFER-funded researcher Joost Brinks. Funding for Brinks’ project has been renewed by IFER for the current grant cycle.