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Sue Gibbs receives prestigious Willy van Heumen lifetime achievement award

13 December 2023
Professor of Skin and Mucosa Regenerative Medicine Sue Gibbs has received the prestigious Willy van Heumen lifetime achievement award for her dedication to animal-free research throughout her entire career. The award is presented once every ten years.

In science, there is still much research needed in the field of Replacement, Reduction, Refinement’ and ‘Reproducibility’ of animal experiments (3Rs). To stimulate this research, the Willy van Heumen Fund awards the Willy van Heumen Lifetime Achievement Award, amounting to €15,000, to a candidate who has conducted exceptional work in this field and has built a significant body of work in the Netherlands. Over her 30-year career, Gibbs has made a tremendous contribution to the successful development of animal-free therapies and testing strategies.

International Recognition
Sue Gibbs receives national and international recognition, having previously been awarded the 2015 Courage in the Lab" prize in and the 2020 Lush Prize, for her global involvement in the field of animal-free research. Currently, Gibbs serves as the principal investigator at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam/Amsterdam UMC in the Department of Molecular Cell Biology. She is also actively involved with ACTA in the Oral Cell Biology section. Within regenerative medicine, her expertise lies in the skin and mucous membranes.

In her research, Gibbs has been dedicated for a long time to the development of skin organoids as a way to conduct animal-free research. An organoid is a three-dimensional mini-organ, measuring less than one millimeter in size. The development of multi-organoid chips is becoming increasingly important to better understand systemic effects in the human body. She is also a co-founder of the Transition Animal-free Innovations (TPI) Helpathon program and shares her expertise, for example, with the British NC3R’s. Additionally, Gibbs is committed to raising awareness about the possibilities of animal-free research among a wide audience.

In recent years, Gibbs has increasingly turned her attention to education, where she passes her knowlegde on to bachelor and master students, PhD candidates, and already-graduated researchers about animal-free research. In doing so, she motivates a broad group of (future) researchers to use animal-free methods in cell biology and immunology. "It’s a challenge, but that’s fun," says Gibbs, ''scientists like a challenge!''

3 V's
In the Transition Animal-free Innovations (TPI), it is crucial to develop research models that mimic the human body and diseases as closely as possible. TPI is a political process in which national collaboration is aimed at making scientific research animal-free. In this transition, the so-called 3 V's - replacement, reduction, and refinement of the use of animals in research - are very important.

Recently, the Amsterdam 4R steering group was established by VU Amsterdam, Amsterdam UMC, and ACTA. 4R stands for the principles of Replacement, Reduction, Refinement of animal research and Reproducibility of animal-free innovations. Research in the field of animal-free innovation remains necessary, and the Willy van Heumen Fund supports and encourages this..

Willy van Heumen fonds
The Willy van Heumen Fund is a foundation that focuses on animal welfare, specifically aiming to promote the limitation of the use of laboratory animals for medical purposes to experiments that are truly necessary.

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