Part 1

Regulations focus: Driving change in the Chinese animal testing environment

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

Regulation focus: Driving change in the Chinese animal testing environment
With China’s aim to carve out an alternative approach to animal testing gathering pace, we spoke to Erin Hill, Co-Founder and President at the Institute for In Vitro Sciences (IIVS) about the importance of industry partnerships in making this a reality.

In February 2018, we looked at the Chinese cosmetics regulatory landscape with Humane International’s Vice President Troy Seidle on two new potential non-animal testing methods discussed via a public consultation​ through the National Institutes for Food and Drug Control (NIFDC).

We look further at the core drivers for change in China with Erin Hill, Co-Founder and President at the Institute for In Vitro Sciences who emphasises that in China “industry is helping to bring about change in China".

Fostering good relationships

“Although consumer awareness and animal protection is growing in China, foreign NGOs with political or social messages (including animal welfare) are prohibited from operating directly in China without a lengthy registration process,”​ Hill added. “However they are able to partner with IIVS which is allowed to work unhindered in China as a technical institute." 

Household cosmetics names including Estee Lauder, Avon and Colgate Palmolive, along with HSI and Peta, are teaming up with organisations such as IIVS to speed up industry advancements and overcome such obstacles.

In 2012, for example, “majors leaps were made”​ when heavyweights Estee Lauder, Avon and Colgate Palmolive partnered with IIVS to create the Industry Council for the Advancement of Regulatory Acceptance of Alternatives (ICARAA). Peta also gave a grant to help kickstart IIVS’ programmes.

Work is needed

“Technical work needs to be done to demonstrate the suitability of alternative methods to test final formulations which is required by current Chinese laws,”​ explained Hill.

At present, IIVS and its ICARAA member companies are partnering to build demonstration programmes to address these and other issues. Through utilising the companies’ formulations and human clinical data, these, combined with the IIVS and ZJIFDC laboratory capabilities, should enable IIVS to demonstrate how these methods function in practice for final formulations.

Strengthening the argument that the industry is making major investments to cooperatively bring about change in China in collaboration with IIVS, Hill noted: ICARAA funding has allowed IIVS to perform intensive training at key laboratories such as the ZJIFDC – which has now opened an alternatives laboratory and applied to be a Key Laboratory in Alternatives of the CDFA.”

“Broader” MoU

Following the success of its first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the Director of NIFDC, Bo Li, and Erin Hill, Co-Founder and President Institute for In Vitro Sciences signed an expanded MOU in Sept 2017 which reflects their “renewed commitment to working collaboratively to bring alternatives to China”. 

Detailing how the new MoU fosters growth and change, Hill explains that it is also “broader in scope – we hope to hold workshops and other activities to help them in their adoption of the new methods”.

Financial backing

To spread the knowledge of alternatives to the next generation of scientists, “companies that are interested in changing the mandatory animal testing requirements provide IIVS with financial support to provide hands-on training, educate cosmetic safety reviewers, and lecture at Universities and scientific meetings”,​ for this purpose. 

This proves crucial as “without this significant support from industry we would not be able to provide the in-depth training on such a regular basis”.

“While NGO’s have provided funding, our main support is from industry. We have funding from very large companies, NARS, Avon, Mary Kay, Estee Lauder etc. – but also smaller companies that really want to participate in bringing changes to China (Caudalie, Percy & Reed, Algenist etc),”​ Hill went on to say. “This support also demonstrates the company’s commitment to alternatives to their employees and customers.”

Knowledge-sharing approach

It is this on-hands training that IIVS chooses to focus: “Unlike many other training programmes in China – ours are not demonstration.”

The organisation which proactively advocates advancing science and animal welfare provides each scientist with their own workstation, the capabilities and resources to generate their own data and to then interpret that data, followed by additional learning through case studies.

Courses take place on an annual basis in China and Chinese scientists can also visit IIVS’ laboratories in the US to see the tests relating to final formulations and complex mixtures.

sCommenting on the benefits to gain from these collaborations, Hill expressed: “It is about building technical proficiency, capacity and confidence in the new methods to gain acceptance.”

"The more they utilise these methods in their own provincial laboratories the more confidence they will have in the technology.” 

“This will mean that more methods will be adopted into regulations,”​ Hill concluded. 

The second part of our interview with Erin Hill, Co-Founder and President at the Institute for In Vitro Sciences will be published on Wednesday 7th March.

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