A dream of a group of scientists was achieved by conducting the First Conference with high professional standards which created a platform for all who are involved in experimentation using laboratory animals. It is not only scientists from Sri Lanka but also internationals from several countries all over the world shared their expertise at this Inaugural Conference which was held from 24th to 26th January 2014.
This conference which spanned for 3 days; began with a pre-conference workshop held at the Uva Wellassa University on how useful the Zebrafish egg model as an alternative to animal experiments. On the invitation of the President/SLALAS, Dr Francois Busquet from Belgium who is the Europe Policy Coordinator of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing shared his expertise to educate participants. Zebra fish which is an endemic species in Sri Lanka has not been used for scientific purposes and was available in Uva Wellassa University. On the instructions of the President/SLALAS, the workshop organized by Dr Prasadi de Silva, Lecturer attached to Uva Wellassa University was very eye catching.
Pre-conference workshop was followed by the Scientific Sessions and the post conference workshop held on 25 and 26th January 2014 at the Dept. of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo. Address by the President/SLALAS at the Sessions on ‘Animals and Science, Controversies and Ethics’ gave a glimpse to participants about the contribution of animal models for the advancement of science and medicine since ancient times while emphasizing the need for strong ethical principles to reduce animal suffering and improve animal welfare.
Prof Noriuki Koibuchi, a physiologist working with animal models from Gunma University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan shared his research findings as a guest speaker, indicating the usefulness of animal models in studying the role of Thyroid hormones on cerebellar development.
The Chief Guest of the Sessions was Emeritus Professor Vera Baumans, Laboratory Animal Expert from the Utrecht University, Netherlands. Her address on ‘Refinement of experimental procedures in laboratory rodents was an eye opener for all participants’.
This conference created an opportunity to recognize two scientists; Prof Vera Baumans and Dr Sharmini Jayasekera who contributed immensely for the development of laboratory animal science field nationally and internationally, by awarding Honorary Membership of SLALAS. Dr Sharmini Jayasekera was the key figure in establishing and developing the Animal House at the Medical Research Institute.
Another important event which took place at the Sessions is launching of the SLALAS website which is hosted by the National Science Foundation. Dr Samantha Iddamaldeniya played the key role in the development of website under the instructions of the executive committee.
Short Talk on Harmonized System for Enhancing Animal Welfare and Good Science by Dr Montip Gettayacamin, Senior Director for Southeast Asia, Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International enlightened the audience with steps to be taken for animal welfare which will enhance scientific output. Initial steps in the organization of this conference were possible due to support extended by the AAALAC International on the recommendation of Dr Getayacamin.
Dr S G Ramachandra, Person In-Charge of the Central Animal Facility, Indian Institute of Science of India, Prof Abdul Rahim Mutalib , President of the LAS Association, Malaysia shared their experiences with the audience by delivering short talks. The video presentation of Dr Patri Vergara, President of the International Council for LAS educated the audience about the role of ICLAS. Dr Mayuri Thammitiyagodage, Head of the Animal Center, Medical Research Institute elaborated the contribution of MRI in the development of LAS field in the country.
Scientific Sessions of any Association will not be successful without sharing findings of research groups. Eight groups of researchers presented their research findings which was very interactive with suggestions from international experts for further improvements. Dr Shamini Jayasekera Award for the best presentation was grabbed by Mr B A G S Bamunuarachchi for his presentation titled ‘Artemisia vulgaris L. ethanolic leaf extract increases platelet and WBC counts in a rat model’.
Similar to the pre-conference workshop, post conference workshop was also dedicated to Alternatives to animal experiments which were first of its kind in the country. For the initiation of the post conference workshop Most Venerable Olande Ananda Thera indicated in his talk the necessity to respect for all life as all beings are interrelated which was appreciated by the participants. This was followed by a brief introductory presentation by Prof Mangala Gunatilake, President/SLALAS on Introduction to Alternatives. Dr Francois Busquet repeated his presentation for the benefit of participants who could not attend the pre-conference workshop held in Uva Wellassa University.
Prof M A Akbarsha, Director of the Mahatma Gandhi-Doerenkamp Center for Alternatives Bharathidasam University, India drew the attention of participants for IdMOC Technology and microphysiological systems as novel alternatives to animal experiments. He highlighted the importance of this in vitro technology as a substitute to build interactions between different organ systems in the human body.
Final presentation for the day was on in vitro EpiDerm skin irritation test: Validated and regulatory accepted alternative method for skin irritation testing by Prof Mangala Gunatilake on behalf of Dr Helena Kandarova, Executive Director, MatTek In Vitro Life Science Laboratories.
This three day Inaugural Conference of the Sri Lanka Association for Laboratory Animal Science was concluded successfully shifting the interest of participants more towards different alternative models. The contribution of all stake holders; members of the Executive Committee of SLALAS, Invited speakers at National and International level, groups of researchers, Companies provided advertisements and support, Compeer, Ms Wathsala Walatara and the Non academic staff of the Department of Physiology for the infrastructure arrangements is highly appreciated.
Prof Mangala Gunatilake
Founder President, SLALAS