The EURL ECVAM Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC) is a formal Expert Group of the European Commission that advises the Joint Research Centre (JRC)'s European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EURL ECVAM) on scientific issues. In particular, the ESAC acts as a scientific peer-review body by providing EURL ECVAM with its opinion on the adequacy and outcome of formal validation studies carried out to assess the reliability and relevance of non-animal methods/approaches, typically in the context of regulatory safety assessment. The ESAC may also provide scientific advice on other scientific issues of relevance to the work and mission of EURL ECVAM. The ESAC’s main tasks are:
(a) to assess the scientific validity of non-animal methods/approaches intended for a given purpose;
(b) to advise the JRC on other scientific matters related to the work of EURL ECVAM and the protection of animals used for scientific purposes;
(c) to share its knowledge and experience on non-animal methods/approaches used in science.
The advice provided by the ESAC is highly valued and recognised by the international scientific community. Over the years, ESAC reviews have supported the adoption of many non-animal methods as Test Guidelines by the OECD. ESAC opinions also often set precedents in the fields of non-animal methods and regulatory toxicology, as for example the recent reviews on non-animal derived antibodies and of a predictive method using transcriptomics data and a machine learning algorithm demonstrate.
ESAC typically provides its advice to EURL ECVAM in the form of an ESAC Opinion (previously called an ESAC ‘Statement’) and its work relies heavily on the independent peer review of all available evidence. The process is initiated by EURL ECVAM through a formal request for advice which provides the necessary background, establishes objectives and timelines, and defines particular questions to be addressed. The work of ESAC is often facilitated by dedicated ESAC sub-groups that produce a sub-group report, included as an annex to the ESAC Opinion when appropriate.
Composition of ESAC
The ESAC consists of 9 external experts who are appointed in a personal capacity on the basis of their scientific expertise and who act independently and in the public interest. ESAC members are appointed for a term of five years, which can be renewed. The selection of ESAC members is carried out via a public call for applications published on the Register of Commission Expert Groups and Other Similar Entities.
In cases where particular expertise is required to deal with specific requests for advice, EURL ECVAM can include experts in ESAC sub-groups who are not members of the ESAC. Such experts are identified via a different public, continuously open call for applications published on the same Register, and selected based on the suitability of their scientific profile. Sub-groups are chaired by an ESAC member and are dissolved as soon as their mandate is fulfilled.
More details are available in the ESAC Terms of Reference.
Continuously open call for applications for the selection of members of ESAC sub-groups
Peer-reviews and other work of the ESAC are normally facilitated by specialised ESAC sub-groups set up by the JRC. On the 25th of October 2022, the JRC launched a continuously open call for applications for the selection of members of the sub-groups operating under the ESAC. More information and instructions on how to apply can be found on the call.
In order to ensure the smooth functioning of ESAC sub-groups, the JRC shall establish a list of suitable experts (expert pool) from applicants complying with the eligibility criteria referred to in this call. The members of a specific sub-group that are not members of the ESAC shall be selected by the JRC from the expert pool on the basis of the selection criteria referred to in this call and of their qualifications/expertise related to the specific question(s) under review.
Each ESAC sub-group must comprise at least one ESAC member who shall chair it, but may be composed of any combination of ESAC members and sub-group members that are not members of the ESAC. ESAC sub-groups typically consist of up to 10 members in total. Members of ESAC sub-groups shall be individuals appointed in a personal capacity who shall act independently and in the public interest (Type A members).
Current ESAC members
On the 25th of March 2022, the JRC launched an open call for applications for the renewal of the members of the ESAC, with a closing date for submitting an application on 1st May 2022. The call was published online at: https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/expert-groups-register/screen/calls-a…. The following 9 experts were formally appointed on the 11th of October 2022 as the new members of the ESAC:
• Ms Rebecca CLEWELL
• Ms Emanuela CORSINI
• Mr Dario GRECO
• Mr Sebastian HOFFMANN
• Ms Anne KIENHUIS
• Mr David LEHMANN
• Ms Blanca RODRIGUEZ
• Mr Helmut SEGNER
• Mr Tewes TRALAU
The list of current ESAC members, the Terms of Reference , and Rules of Procedure can be found on the Register of Commission Expert Groups and Other Similar Entities.
ESAC plenary meetings are typically held once or twice per year. ESAC sub-groups meet as required in the course of responding to a request for advice. The meetings of ESAC and its sub-groups are held either on JRC premises in Ispra, Italy, or virtually, depending on the circumstances.
ESAC Statements 1999-2009
The composition and roles of ESAC were fundamentally redefined in 2009. Up to 2009, ESAC had a double role: on the one hand, to provide input from various stakeholders and regulators for priority setting on alternative methods (now a function of the ESTAF and PARERE, respectively) and, on the other hand, to be ECVAM's scientific peer review body.
During this period ESAC delivered its advice to ECVAM (as it was called then) in the form of "ESAC Statements", published on ECVAM's website.
Note: since its renewal in 2009, ESAC provides its advice in the form of "ESAC opinions" and "ESAC sub-group reports". ESAC sub-group reports are annexed to ESAC opinions. ESAC opinions may be published standalone or as an annex to an EURL ECVAM Recommendation.