Pr. Thomas Hartung 
Scientist using microscope with dna image in background

Pr. Thomas Hartung 

One of the world's leading specialists in non-animal research

June 2023

Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Prof. Thomas Hartung, before moving to the United States in 2009, was head of the European Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods of the European Commission (EURL-ECVAM) from 2002 to 2008. Throughout his career, Thomas Hartung has also received numerous honors and awards. Since 1993 and throughout his career, Thomas Hartung has received numerous awards, such as the US Society of Toxicology Enhancement of Animal Welfare Award in 2006, the Russell & Burch Award from the Humane Society of the US in 2009, 2020 the Ursula Händel Animal Welfare Prize for Alternative Methods to Animal Testing by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Merit Award by EuroTox 2020/2021. An internationally renowned scientist, generous and productive, Prof. Hartung has thus carried out significant publication work with 640 articles cited more than 43,000 times.

Image credit : Pr. Thomas Hartung

Comité Pro Anima : For our readers, can you introduce yourself, explain what led you to research and teaching and more particularly to your interest in the field of toxicology and the challenges of alternative testing and methods to animal experiment ?

I love animals but I chose the wrong job for this – pharmacology and toxicology. Here, traditionally many animals are used. So, starting with my master thesis 1988, I worked on alternatives to animals in this field. At the time, cell culture was just beginning to become a more common tool with an industrial infrastructure for consumables, and computers were not powerful enough to allow major substitution. In pharmacology and in general in most science, there is a competition of ideas and methods change quickly. Most scientific papers are nowadays not using animals. However, regulatory toxicology is a different case. The animal tests, which are used here or are just right now being replaced, have been introduced when I was not yet born or in kindergarten. Since they are such a stable target, they are quite ideal for a one-by-one replacement. So, while in most science, we will never know what the consequence of using a non-animal method will change, when it is about the traditional animal tests for safety, we do.


Comité Pro Anima : For which experience / For which position did you have the most results ? What experience / what position among all those you have held has given you the most satisfaction, whether in scientific terms and/or in terms of regulation ?

I love my work, every day of the year. The first academic phase in Konstanz, I was still a lot in the lab myself and developed alternative tests for liver inflammation and pyrogen testing. In the European Commission from 2002 – 2009, I learned about the interplay of science and policy and enjoyed the work on large scale with many researchers. I was able to influence some legislation such as the chemical legislation REACH and the validation studies initiated led so far to 20 OECD test guidelines and two guidance documents as well as one European & US Pharmacopoeia monograph. Since 2019, at Johns Hopkins, I have the privilege to work at a top university second to none with the most complete academic freedom. I think in all phases, I was able to shape the field, have an impact, and this is giving me most satisfaction.