Lush Prize for Helpathon-team stimulating animal-free innovation
On November 11th, 2020, the Dutch TPI Helpathon team received the Lush Prize from Judge member Dr Gill Langley. Every year, Lush awards a prize to a team involved in training in non-animal research methods. The TPI Helpathon team was selected because it inspires and helps many researchers to rethink their research. The prize money will be used by the team to spread the Helpathon method internationally. The prize is worth £50,000.
The Helpathon is derived from the hackathon.
A Helpathon is a multi-day meeting. Helpathon is derived from hackathon and aims to get people to come up with innovative solutions together around social themes. Since 2018, the TPI Helpathon team has been organizing various Helpathons on the theme of "animal free research". In this way, various researchers have been challenged and supported to conduct their research without animal testing.
Innovative animal-free research Prof. Dr Sue Gibbs, cell biologist and tissue engineer at Amsterdam UMC, ACTA hopes that this recognition will encourage more academics to actively explore the options available to them to answer their research question with fewer or no laboratory animals.
Carine van Schie, head of research and innovation at the Dutch Burns Foundation in Beverwijk believes that more Helpathons will also encourage research funders to dare to finance more innovative non-animal research applications.
Pepik Henneman, Jan de Dood, Jantine Wijnja and Eva Malschaert of Meneer de Leeuw are pleased that the method was successful and that even more results can be expected thanks to the award. Pepik Henneman took the initiative to further advance the Helpathon method and apply it as an innovation protocol for funders of health research. For co-organizer Jan de Dood, who has a background in the financial sector, it is clear: Helpathons help organize coincidence and there is no innovation without coincidence.
Newest team member Debby Weijers from Stichting Proefdiervrij, the Dutch Society for the Replacement of Animal Testing, is looking forward to applying the method in her practice.
In vitro model for burn wounds.
Thanks to the Dutch Transition Program for Animal-Free Innovation (TPI), a dozen researchers have been able to look again at their own research practice with animals during Helpathon sessions. They have all managed to enrich their research with non-animal research methods. For example, Paul Krijnen (VUMC) is now developing an in vitro model for burn wounds to further test his new drug. Ilze Bot (Leiden Academic Center for Drug Research) has now received funding to research drugs against carotid artery calcification on cultures of human tissue.
The Helpathon team wants to use the prize money to further spread the Helpathon method. This year the social enterprise Meneer de Leeuw developed the Masterclass “Organize your own Helpathon”. In 2021 they will offer these internationally together with one of their partners. The Helpathon team will also organize an international Helpathon: "Do you have a research question for a Helpathon and would you like experts from all over the world to help you answer it in an animal-free way, please let us know," asks Pepik Henneman.