Washington Update

NIH Novel Alternative Methods Working Group Releases Final Report

By: Naomi Charalambakis
Wednesday, January 10, 2024
During the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD) December meeting, the Working Group on Catalyzing the Development and Use of Novel Alternative Methods (NAMs) to Advance Biomedical Research presented its final report and recommendations.

Formed in 2022, the working group was charged with evaluating the landscape of NAMs, assessing their strengths and limitations, and characterizing the types of research in which they hold the most promise for complementing and/or replacing animal studies.

While NAMs are already advancing various areas of biomedical research, the report emphasizes that stand-alone nonanimal models cannot fully recapitulate complex biological processes or human diseases. Furthermore, additional efforts are needed to interconnect different scientific disciplines and methodologies—including animal studies—to maximize the future development and use of NAMs in science. Under this framework, the working group proposes seven recommendations:
  • Prioritize the development and use of combinatorial NAMs
  • Establish resources, infrastructure, and collaborations to promote the use of interoperable, reliable, and well curated/high quality datasets produced from research using NAMs
  • Promote effective dissemination and interconnection of NAMs technologies
  • Invest in comprehensive training to bolster continuous advances in NAMs development and use
  • Facilitate multidisciplinary teams with expertise across technologies and the lifecycle of NAMs development and use
  • Promote social responsibility in both the creation and deployment of NAMs across the research lifecycle
  • Support and maintain coordinated infrastructure to catalyze effective and responsible NAMs development and use
Several of the recommendations and their associated sub-recommendations mirror FASEB’s comments on the topic. These include the importance of establishing NAM-specific data management policies and reporting guidelines, strengthening interagency partnerships to develop a coordinated federal approach to NAMs while minimizing administrative burden, and creating funding mechanisms that incentivize multidisciplinary research projects.

The ACD unanimously accepted the working group’s final report. The NIH Office of the Director will now consider the recommendations and assess which areas warrant investment and implementation.