Looking back at Helpathon #3!

Can you help me develop a human model for studying liver metabolism?’- Can you help me create a unique master course for animal free innovation?’ Saskia van Mill (UMC Utrecht) and Daniela Salvatory (University Utrecht), both respected scientists, were brave enough to share their questions on animal free innovation. And 73 enthousiastic partcipantswere brave enough to volunteer to explore answers with them! This resulted in productive and creative ideas and suggestions. 

Daniela’s course was reframed as a self learning algorithm with students as teachers and teachers as students. Animal free innovation is a totally new field of education, and education itself is also changing/transforming. It makes sense to create a self-enforcing model. In this spiraling model both viewpoints can be expanded and combined, which will improve the quality of the course. 

We enthusiastically projected our wishes to transform research on the course. The main objective for the course is to learn to decide what animal based or animal free research method to use. For this we believe we need to learn to:

  • design a study;
  • successfully write an animal free proposal; 
  • to discuss and address ethics;
  • to appreciate the background of existing laws and regulations.

We listed a multitude of ways to make this happen in the most motivating way. Online courses allow for unprecedented access of worldwide experts and many of us offered to contribute to the course.

We experimented using an escape room as an alternitive to a written exam. The escape room is a fun and challenging way to earn your qualification. It requires to think of a good story line covering the grounds from designing a research proposal and study and exploring the possibilities for both animal free and animal models, whilst focussing on the wellbeing of the patient. It was also good fun to be creative and use the setting of the Bijlmerbajes to create the feeling of being trapped and trying to escape. 

Two roads

For Saskia two roads were distinguished. One road picks the low hanging fruit by starting to use an alternative for mice matrigel and fetal calf serum. Further away this road helps Saskia to construct a multi-organ-on chip model combining gut and liver organoids within one system with flowing immune cells, all derived from a single patient so that in the future it will be applicable for a personalized medicine approach. We challenged Saskia to turn her idea and research into a startup and to introduce this wonderful new model out of the lab into the world of Pharma.

The second road is leading Saskia upstream from cure to prevention. Saskia’s case made us realize the importance of a close and vivid connection between scientific knowledge and society. Scientists such as Saskia know from first hand how a healthy lifestyle reduces liver diseases.  Healthy foods are more expensive, habits are harder to change when you are under financial stress.

In #weareallsaskia we imagined unorthodox strategies to bridge, close or lessen the gap between scientifically based lifestyle insights and harder-to-reach population groups. Cool researchers such as Saskia can become influencers and seduce people suffering from obesity or prone to obesity to adopt a healthier lifestyle. If we have a healthier population, we need less drugs and also less animals to test new therapies.

We wish Saskia and Daniela good luck and we hope to receive an update by the end of the summer. If you have an urgent animal free innovation question do not hesitate to contact us!