Merel Ritskes-Hoitinga receives Pioneer Medal from Animal Free Research UK

The UK research body Animal Free Research UK has awarded professor Merel Ritskes-Hoitinga with the Pioneer Medal 2023. The award is given to pioneering scientists conducting medical research without the use of animal testing. Ritskes-Hoitinga: "I dedicate my teaching and research efforts to accelerating the adaptation of animal-free methodologies. This award serves as a motivating force that propels me towards achieving this crucial goal."

Merel Ritskes-Hoitinga has been appointed professor of Evidence-Based Transition Animal-Free Innovations at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University from 1 June 2022. In her research and teaching, she mainly focuses on the collaboration between academia, industry, NGOs and regulatory bodies to jointly achieve guidelines and (faster) acceptance of alternatives to animal testing.

Before new, non-animal research methods can be used in practice, they must first be accepted by legislative bodies. This often involves years of procedures, while there are opportunities to simplify and speed up these processes. Ritskes-Hoitinga: "What we saw during the corona pandemic, for example, is that a lot of results were achieved around vaccine development in a very short time. This was mainly because academics, industry and regulatory authorities sought intensive cooperation - it turned out that the usual research pathways could be shortened without compromising the results. Currently, there seems to be a return to the old procedures. In my oration, I therefore advocate, among other things, putting these lessons into practice more, with regard to animal-free innovation: if we enable intensive collaboration, scientifically based, animal-free methods can be implemented much faster than they are now."

Ritskes-Hoitinga is delighted to receive the Pioneer Award:

"It is a huge honour for me to receive the Animal Free Research UK Pioneer Award. I dedicate my teaching and research efforts to accelerating the adoption of animal-free methodologies based on scientific evidence. This award is a motivating force for me to achieve this crucial goal, one that offers enormous benefits for both animals and humans."

The jury cited her leading role when it comes to implementing new technologies:

"Dr Merel Ritskes-Hoitinga is an expert in her field, leading the way in introducing groundbreaking new technologies that are revolutionising the way we conduct medical research. We are thrilled to name her a Pioneer this year." - Science director Dr Jarrod Bailey

Animal Free Research UK CEO, Carla Owen, said: “The Pioneer Awards are a prestigious annual mark of achievement, elevating animal free research and researchers in the scientific community and inspiring the next generation of scientists.  The decisions more and more scientists like Dr Merel Ritskes-Hoitinga, Dr Adrian Biddle and Sophie O’Kane make to champion animal replacement in their work is unlocking answers to the many questions we still have about diseases. Their ground-breaking work deserves to be recognised.

In addition to the Pioneer Medal 2023, Dr Adrian Biddle of Queen Mary University London received the Outstanding Scientist 2023 Award and Sophie O'Kane of the Karolinska Institutet received the Early Career Scientist Award 2023. These two awards will be presented for the first time this year to young, inspiring researchers in the field of animal-free innovation.

On October 4th (Animal Day in The Netherlands), Ritskes-Hoitinga will give her inaugural lecture at the Academy Building of Utrecht University. On October 5th, she will give an online lecture on her research at the Animal Free Research UK's Science Conference in Cambridge.

About Animal Free Research UK

Animal Free Research UK (AFRUK) is a UK research organisation that funds and promotes animal-free techniques to replace animal testing. Founded in 1970, Animal Free Research UK develops reliable science that avoids animal testing. Animal Free Research UK promotes animal-free research through funding, publications, outreach to the scientific community and the media.