The RE-Place team evaluated which new initiatives can be set up to further replace and reduce animal testing, besides the core activities of the project, which consist of collecting the existing expertise on alternative methods in Belgium in one central database. These new initiatives are focused on improving knowledge sharing on alternative methods within and between organisations. They are included in the overarching action plan of the Flemish region to reduce animal experiments.
In 2020, the Flemish Government launched the ‘round table conversations’ with the aim to create an action plan to replace, reduce and refine (3Rs Principle) animal experiments in dialogue with the sector. So far, 20 organisations have committed themselves to take concrete actions to contribute to this goal. These actions are very diverse in nature and tackle different topics including the development of (new) alternative methods, the creation of new funding opportunities, training of (future) scientists, and knowledge sharing and collaborations. All initiatives are described in detail in the official action plan which was recently published by the Department ‘Omgeving’, section ‘Animal Welfare’.
The action plan of RE-Place comprises the organisation of different events in 2023. Last July, a series of educational webinars focussing on the development of alternative methods was launched with already two webinars being organised. In September, and for the first time in Belgium, a joint three-day 3R Symposium has been organised in collaboration with the Innovation Centre 3Rs (IC-3Rs) and the EU-TWINALT Consortium. In November 2023, the RE-Place team and the Flemish government will organize a study day and networking moment on the round table initiative. Besides the organisation of events, the RE-Place team will continue to expand the RE-Place database by actively contacting researchers and organising meetings and presentations. The RE-Place open access database provides an overview of the existing methods together with the names of the experts and organisations who have developed or are currently applying them. By having easy access to a direct point of contact, RE-Place also facilitates the exchange of information on these methods. Finally, the existing progress in the field of alternatives will be further disseminated though the RE-Place website, social media channels and newsletter.
RE-Place, together with 20 other organisations, will thus continue to work and expand its efforts towards the ultimate replacement of animal testing.
 ‘Replacement’ aims to replace the use of laboratory animals by prioritizing the use of alternative methods such as human cell- and tissue cultures or computer modelling techniques. ‘Reduction’ aims to reduce the amount of laboratory animals, for example, by an accurate calculation of the number of laboratory animals required to obtain scientific reliable results. ‘Refinement’ aims to maximize the wellbeing of the animals by minimizing the inflicted pain, stress and discomfort e.g. by providing analgesia.