The Lush Young Researcher Prize aims to recognise and reward those working to eliminate animal testing in science and cosmetics through their research. Dr Kenry of the National University of Singapore has won one of this year’s 18 prizes for his project that focuses on the development of an in vitro model to replace the use of animal models in antithrombotic therapy testing.
What does winning the Lush Prize mean to you?
I am deeply honoured and humbled to be one of the Lush Prize recipients this year. Winning the Lush Prize Young Researcher Asia Award at this point of my career is highly rewarding as this will further support my research goals and independent work. It is really exciting to be selected to join the rank of like-minded people to influence the wider scientific community to bring an animal testing-free future closer. Ultimately, to know that people, especially those at a large organization like Lush, support and care about what you are doing, is highly encouraging and empowering.
Why is it important that animal experimentation is replaced with non-animal alternatives?
I am always puzzled by animal testing as its relevance and impact to improving human health are questionable. For example, I have always read reports that claim that certain drugs work really well in animal models but when they are used in clinical trials, they fail miserably. Therefore, animal testing may be unreliable and non-representative of human physiology. As such, I strongly believe that tests using non-animal alternatives, particularly those dealing with human-derived products, may be more accurate in producing important information relevant to human health.
What is it that makes you passionate about campaigning against animal testing or working to replace animal testing in science?
Personally, I feel that animal testing is inhumane and really cruel. To date, lots of time and resources have been channelled into animal tests but unfortunately, the experimental data produced from these tests may not be relevant to human physiology. That is why I believe that it is time for us to shift our focus to look more into non-animal tests in science.
Why did you get involved in/establish this project?
I am always interested in the biological and biomedical applications of nanomaterials, particularly their potential as antithrombotic agents, and their toxicity. With the increasing global disease burden caused by thrombosis, I believe that the significance of developing effective antithrombotic therapeutics has never been greater. Therefore, a comprehensive assessment of the efficacy and toxicity of new antithrombotic agents is crucial. However, I understand that thrombosis is typically studied using either in vitro cell and tissue cultures or in vivo animal models, which have limitations. For example, cell and tissue cultures fail to replicate the complex blood vessel geometries and flow dynamics that contribute to thrombosis, and animal models may not be representative of human physiology. All these have significantly impeded the discovery, development, and testing of more effective antithrombotic therapies. Motivated by this, I propose to develop a thrombotic microvascular network to investigate the physiological mechanisms of thrombosis and to assess the efficacy and toxicity of new antithrombotic agents. Through the proposed system, I seek to replace the use of animals in toxicological assessment and effective personalized antithrombotic nanomedicine development.
What are the most rewarding parts of being involved (in your project)? And the most challenging?
I feel that the most rewarding parts of being involved in my project is the knowledge that I am contributing and trailblazing a path towards the complete replacement of inhumane animal testing. Just the simple thought of bringing an animal testing-free future closer is sufficient to excite me. Nonetheless, the pressure for animal tests is real. Throughout my scientific endeavours in fact, I have experienced multiple painful rejections of my manuscripts by different scientific journal editors and reviewers due to the lack of animal data, despite the novelty and impact of the work. Still, despite all the challenges, I believe that developing alternatives to replace animal testing is highly meaningful and the right thing to do. That is why I am here.
What will you use the Lush Prize funding for?
The Lush Prize will serve as an invaluable start-up fund to develop my project. I will use part of the fund to support the direct costs of research, notably for the purchase of certain consumables and reagents specific to the project, such as hydrogels, staining dyes, human endothelial cells, and whole blood. Additionally, I hope to use the prize fund to disseminate my research results, promote the benefits of animal-free research, and further stimulate the progress of animal testing-free through various avenues, such as outreach activities, workshops, or conferences on alternative toxicological methods.
What is next for your project?
I seek to further develop and stabilize the proposed system to obtain some initial experimental data which are able to elucidate certain physiological mechanisms of thrombosis as well as the efficacy and toxicity of novel antithrombotic agents.
How can people get involved/learn more?
I would be very glad if people are curious or interested in my project. They may reach me at either [email protected] to learn more about certain aspects of the project or to see how they can contribute or get involved in it.