London – Seeking to maximise the value of computational modelling in avoiding animal testing for the European Union's Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Foundation has produced a free resource for potential registrants, identifying sources of information and expertise on the use of Quantitative Structure Activity Relationships (QSARs). The short brochure "QSARs and REACH: A Guide to Sources of Information and Advice" was produced in consultation with leading experts in the field and lists publicly available online resources and selected contact points for individuals and organisations that can offer support to REACH registrants and consultants on the use of QSARs.
QSARs predict chemical behaviour directly from chemical structure and simulates adverse effects in cells, tissues and lab animals, minimising the need to use animal tests to comply with regulatory requirements for human health and ecotoxicology endpoints. The REACH regulation promotes the use of alternative methods and states that animal testing should be a last resort. The use of QSAR is specifically encouraged. However, while QSARs have already been used in many registrations, it is clear from the European Chemicals Agency's (ECHA) 2011 report, "The Use of Alternatives to Testing on Animals for the REACH Regulation", that many opportunities to use them have been missed and that, in some cases, registrants have not submitted QSAR data in accordance with REACH's requirements, leading to potential failure at the REACH compliance check, additional costs, and increased animal testing.
"QSARs, used in the context of intelligent testing strategies and in combination with a chemical category approach, have the potential to replace many animal tests for REACH – but registrants must feel confident both with the use of the technology and with integrating it into weight-of-evidence arguments that ECHA will accept", says PETA policy adviser Alistair Currie. "It's clear from our discussions with companies that those less familiar with its use feel cautious about using it to replace testing. This resource answers the need to link the experts in QSAR use for REACH with the registrants who need that expertise." The list was compiled by PETA in consultation with PETA US and contacts within industry and academia, and selection and inclusion was based entirely on expert judgment – the list contains no paid advertising. The resource is currently being distributed gratis to chemical companies, consultants and other stakeholders and is available online at the link above.