Dr. Jan van der Valk receives Björn Ekwall Memorial 2019

Dr. Jan van der Valk

Dr. Jan van der Valk, director of the 3Rs-Centre Utrecht Life Sciences and partner in the Utrecht Advanced In Vitro Models Hub (U-AIM), has won the Björn Ekwall Memorial Foundation Award 2019.

This award is a recognition of his work to make scientists aware of the issues regarding the use of fetal calf serum (FCS).

Jan van der Valk: “I am very honored to be the recipient of this award. It is a great appreciation from abroad for the work that we perform here.”

In vitro research (cell and tissue culture) is generally recognized as a replacement method for animal experiments. However, animals are still indirectly used for this type of research. The serum that is commonly used to grow cells (Fetal Calf Serum, or FCS), is harvested from living bovine foetuses taken from pregnant cows during slaughter. The calves should therefore be regarded as experimental animals. Many scientists are unaware of this fact. Furthermore, since it is a natural product, the composition of the commercially available FCS varies from batch to batch, which impedes the reproducibility of results. In the past 20 years, Van der Valk has organized workshops, published several papers and gave lectures on this topic, aiming to make scientists aware of the issues related to the use of FCS. The 3Rs-Centre Utrecht Life Sciences and Animal Free Research UK launched the FCS-free Database in 2017, where researchers can find FCS-free media for specific cell-types.

The Björn Ekwall Memorial Foundation prize is awarded every year, it is the first time that a Dutch person has received this award.