In silico method mentioned in JRC report on alternatives to animal testing


On 7 February, the European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EURL ECVAM) - which is an integral part of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) – published a status report on alternatives to animal testing. This report provides updates on the progress made in research, development and validation activities as well as on initiatives promoting the regulatory and international adoption and use of alternative approaches and their dissemination.


The JRC’s report presents integrated approaches to testing and assessment that incorporate multiple data steams derived from new sources such as in vitro methods and in silico modelling. These techniques are advancing to translate mechanistic understanding of toxicity into safety testing strategies avoiding traditional animal testing for chemical safety testing.

Among the Alternative Test Methods identified by the JRC, in silico methods are clearly introduced in light of the Global Consortium on In Silico Toxicology Protocols. The report clearly states that;

“Computational (“in silico”) methods include quantitative structure-activity relationship models (QSARs), structural alert profilers, read-across approaches inferring properties between similar chemicals, and receptor-ligand docking. They are widely used in applications such as drug development and screening of large lists of chemicals for potential toxicological properties.”

Furthermore, the JRC acknowledges that acceptance of in silico model results in regulatory toxicology decision-making remains limited due to the absence of defined and harmonised procedures on the application of methods and the interpretation of their results.


The In Silico Toxicology Protocol (IST) initiative, led by Leadscope, Inc., mentioned in the report, develops principles and protocols for the consistent use of computational models in chemical safety assessment to promote greater acceptance in regulatory applications. This international imitative formed by over 55 members (from industry, regulatory or governmental agencies, academics, model developers and consultants across different sectors and regions), has also been joined by the EURL ECVAM in view to achieve a broad consensus. The overall aim is to increase confidence in, and acceptance and uptake of, in silico methodologies for regulatory applications.

The first publication of the consortium, published in 2018, describes the general framework of the IST Protocols and how they could guide the international of computational predictions with experimental data to support the assessment of a chemical for adverse health effects, for instance in the context of drug development.

The IST Protocols include considerations of the reliability and relevance assessment of computational methods using a novel scoring scheme and the conduct and documentation of expert review using practical checklists. The IST expects that the use of the framework and associated protocols will increase the acceptance and uptake of in silico methodologies.