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ZEBET - Alternative Methods to Animal Experiments

The Unit 'ZEBET - Alternative Methods to Animal Experiments' develops alternative methods based on the 3R principle, supports research projects in this field, and advises authorities on methods that can replace or reduce the number of animal experiments.

In scientific terms, it is a major challenge to develop alternative methods for the various questions and complex methodological approaches that could replace animal experiments.

Animal experiments are still needed for example in the field of basic biomedical research to understand the development of diseases, for product and chemical safety testing or the development of new drugs and therapies. Even today, many biological interrelationships are still not fully understood, as fundamental principles of life in whole organisms are based on highly complex interactions of many biological systems. Physiological and pathophysiological processes, for example, are controlled by complex actions and reactions of individual organs, cells and cellular components. For pharmacological and toxicological safety testing, the development of new drugs and therapies and for research on the development of diseases, animal experiments are necessary as they enable scientists to monitor and examine this interplay of the different biological systems in a living whole animal organism.

Directive 2010/63/EU defines as the final goal to totally resign from animal experiments. However, it is a big challenge to develop alternative methods for all of these various issues and complex methodological approaches which are capable to replace all animal experiments. In its own laboratories, ZEBET therefore researches, develops and validates alternative methods for regulatory toxicity testing and develops methods for use in basic biomedical research. To this end, ZEBET pursues a more realistic strategy aiming at the development of new cell culture systems which are able to model distinct processes of a living organism in vitro. As part of this process, the Unit uses modern in vitro and in silico techniques.

In addition to experimental research on ”Replacement”, statistical approaches are pursued in order to reduce the number of animals used to a minimum in experimental areas in which animal testing is not yet avoidable (“Reduction”).

Moreover, the Unit is responsible for tendering, review and supervision of scientific projects for the development of alternative methods to animal experiments in the field of biomedical research and regulatory toxicity testing (ZEBET research funding programme). The BfR has been supporting projects of this kind since 1990 with an annual budget of around 350,000 €. The call for proposals takes place every two years.

The duties of the Unit also include the provision of advice to the regional state authorities on matters connected with alternatives to animal experiments – a responsibility that was assigned to the BfR when the new regulations on the welfare of animals used in laboratory experiments in accordance with Art. 46 TierSchVersV came into effect on 13 August 2013.

Scientists from the Unit also participate in national, international and supranational bodies in order to scientifically evaluate alternative methods and promote their regulatory acceptance and implementation in laws and directives.

The Unit organises scientific events on a regular basis, including expert meetings, workshops and public events such as the "ZEBET Seminar" in order to advance the dialogue between the scientific community, industry, authorities, NGOs and the general public.

The management of the ZEBET Committee is located within the Unit.


Other documents

Date Title Size
Print Version
Organisation Chart of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment 85.7 KB


External Links

Regulation on the Welfare of Animals Used in Experiments (Tierschutz-Versuchstierverordnung - TierSchVersV) (German)



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