The premise of each World Congress is alternatives to the use of animals in research, testing and education, also known as the "3R's": replacement of the use of animals in research, reduction of the number of animals used, and refinement of procedures so that pain, distress and suffering are minimized. This World Congress has five running themes: replacement/reduction; refinement/reduction; databases/education/information retrieval; validation/testing; and policy/ethics. Speakers and contributors from around the world will address these themes via plenaries, workshops, point-counterpoint sessions, and poster exhibits. Participants are from various backgrounds, including government agencies, industry, animal protection, and scientific research institutions, and are considered experts in their respective fields.
Highlights of this year's Congress include Charles DeLisi's plenary lecture on the Virtual Human project. DeLisi, a professor and director of bioinformatics at Boston University, began the Human Genome Project and is currently designing cutting-edge software that will mimic all of the physiological processes of a human being. In addition, presenters at the Congress will discuss the latest developments in new testing approaches, such as improvements in experimental design that seek to reduce animal numbers in testing procedures; as well as report on the progress of refinement methods that minimize pain and distress experienced by animals in laboratories, such as new developments in monitoring animal physiology and behavior.
The World Congress, held on a triennial basis, is organized and funded by the Alternatives Congress Trust, Inc. (ACT) and sponsored by various organizations, including The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the European Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods, the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and the Third World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences. The Executive Committee and Board of the ACT are composed of an international consortium of experts in the field of alternatives, including Dr. Andrew Rowan, HSUS senior vice president for research, education and international issues. The HSUS is the primary organizer of the conference.
According to Rowan, "The Fourth World Congress will provide an opportunity for experts working in the field of alternatives to animal use to exchange current information and to determine future goals for reduction of the number of animals used in research, refinement of techniques in order to minimize animal pain and distress and for ultimate replacement of the use of animals in research altogether."
Representatives from The HSUS will be speaking in a number of sessions on topics such as the use of primates in research, The HSUS's Pain and Distress Initiative, and the use of animals in education. The HSUS will also be hosting two satellite sessions, including a meeting of animal protection groups from around the world, as well as a workshop on minimization of pain and distress in the production of polyclonal antibodies (an immunological technique which involves animals). The HSUS will also bestow the 2002 Russell and Burch Award to a scientist who has made an outstanding contribution towards the advancement of alternative methods, at an awards ceremony on Wednesday, August 14.
Past World Congresses have been held in Baltimore, Maryland (1993); Utrecht, The Netherlands (1996) and Bologna, Italy (1999).
A banquet and award ceremonies will be held on Wednesday, August 14. Finally, the Fourth World Congress will close with a farewell luncheon on the afternoon of August 15th.