Large-scale update FCS-free Database completed

The Fetal Calf Serum (FCS)-free Database ( has been expanded with information from an extensive collection of literature on FCS-free media. Among these publications are many complete formulations, enabling scientists to make their own FCS-free medium, specific for the cell type of their choice.

The database now comprises more than 500 scientific papers, describing FCS-free formulations that are either modifications of or with commercially available media or self-manufactured formulations. Out of these 500, over 240 papers have published detailed formulations, enabling readers to reproduce the medium. The expansion of the FCS-free Database is a result of an extensive review of scientific papers published over the past ten years. Dr. Jan van der Valk, director of the 3Rs-Centre Utrecht Life Sciences: “Thanks to this update, the database contains FCS-free media for 260 unique cell types. Thus, it has become easier for scientists to identify a FCS-free medium for their cell type(s).” In addition to these literature records, visitors can also find products from commercial suppliers in the database. 

Why use FCS-free media?

Fetal Calf Serum (FCS, also known as Fetal Bovine Serum, or FBS) is a common supplement of cell culture media. However, its use raises considerable moral and scientific concerns. FCS is harvested from the beating heart of alive bovine fetuses taken from pregnant cows during slaughter, resulting in a serious animal welfare issue. Furthermore, FCS is a biological product with changing composition, complicating reproducibility of experiments. The fact that the use of FCS in cell culture is neither ethically nor scientifically sound, has recently been underlined by the OECD, that adopted the guidance document for Good In Vitro Method Practices (GIVIMP), in which the issues regarding the use of FCS are discussed. The FCS-free Database is mentioned as an information source in the GIVIMP document. Furthermore, the FCS-free Database has been nominated for the Lush Prize 2018, the world’s greatest prize on animal free research.

Support future 3Rs activities

The literature update was made possible by donations we received. The FCS-free Database is part of the 3Rs Database Programme, which is entirely dependent on donations and gifts. If you are interested in contributing to the replacement, reduction and refinement of animal experiments, visit our page of the charitable fund Friends of VetMed.