The Physicians Committee awarded the ERA21 Poster Award to Artur Christian Garcia da Silva, a student who attended the JRC Summer School this past May. As part of the award, the Physicians Committee is sponsoring Silva’s registration fee to attend the World Congress on Alternatives and Animals Use in the Life Sciences, a major conference taking place this August.
The World Congress will explore the latest in 3Rs alternative approaches in research and development (replacement, reduction, and refinement of testing on animals) and will cover the latest issues and novel developments in the field of alternatives to animal testing in the life sciences.
We asked Artur to describe what he’s been working on:
I entered the Pharmacy undergraduate course at Federal University of Goiás (Brazil) in 2011, and, since becoming a student, I decided to build my career in the field of pre-clinical assessment of new pharmaceutical products. Although I am fascinated by drug discovery and product development, I realized that the experimental models available for pharmacological/toxicological assessment were limited by old protocols used to evaluate products designated for human consumption. I always used to argue why results obtained with animal models could represent human response, given the notable interspecies differences and the catastrophic examples of pre-clinical failure in the history of pharmaceutical industry (e.g. thalidomide). Therefore, I decided to conciliate my affinity for pre-clinical research to my passion for mechanistic studies to develop in vitro human-relevant models to subsidize innovation in pharmaceutical sciences. In addition, the Brazilian regulatory context is moving toward a new scenario in toxicological assessment through the banishment of animal experimentation in cases that alternatives are available. So, these innovative tools are mandatory for subsidizing innovation and competitiveness in my country.
Beyond animal welfare, I decided to work in this field to contribute to the quality of data generated from pre-clinical studies, providing more efficient and safe products for humans and the environment. Since 2013, I have been involved with the Laboratory of Research and Education in In vitro Toxicology, which is coordinated by Professor Marize Valadares. This research group is focused on the development and application of New Approach Methodologies (NAMs), working with the development and application of methods that reduce and replace animal use in science. In 2017, during my master's degree course, I developed the first Brazilian reconstructed corneal epithelial model for eye toxicity assessment, which is now under interlaboratory reproducibility studies.
Actually, in my Ph.D. project, I work with a multiparametric platform for the identification of respiratory sensitizers employing physiologically relevant endpoints, given that there are no validated methods for the analysis of chemically-induced lung diseases. We opted for working with several parameters comprising different respiratory system cells, given the complexity of respiratory system structure and function. In this step, we applied a mechanistic approach to determine relevant inflammatory alterations after exposure of such cells to respiratory sensitizers. Furthermore, we integrated all four cell types individually assessed in a 3D co-culture model, aiming to address the crosstalk between them and its contribution to the sensitization process.
I profoundly believe that this work can contribute to the establishment and dissemination of NAMs, subsidizing the consolidation of a more predictive preclinical science in the field of respiratory research. The clinical trial failure rate for drugs to treat respiratory system diseases is even higher compared to other commonly researched diseases, which limits the availability of therapeutic options. We advocate for better assessment models to radically change drug discovery, so treatments for lung diseases can come to market faster. Also considering regulatory toxicology, this work could help to construct arguments for risk assessment in the decision-making process with respect to a new product and its capacity for causing lung sensitization.
My participation in the JRC Virtual Summer School was a great experience for my career. This event allowed me to attend conferences and talk to researchers who are experts in the field of innovative methods for preclinical research and to learn from knowledgable scientists. Furthermore, this opportunity allowed me to meet colleagues from different parts of the world, which can help me establish a valuable network for experience exchanging and future partnerships. Lastly, receiving the ERA21 Poster Award was a significant stimulus for my work and gave me more confidence to persist in this area, proposing solutions for the complex issues of preclinical science.