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Ursula M. Händel Prize 2020

Computer scientist, biochemist and medical scientist Professor Dr. Dr. med. Thomas Hartung from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and the University of Konstanz and biochemist and toxicologist Professor Dr. Marcel Leist, also from the University of Konstanz, have been selected to receive the Ursula M. Händel Animal Welfare Prize by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation). The €80,000 prize, which is being presented for the eighth time, is awarded to researchers who improve animal welfare in research in line with the principles of the 3Rs: Replacement, Reduction and Refinement.

Using information about the toxicity of a well-studied substance, the prizewinners succeeded in predicting the toxicity of a material that has not yet been researched (known as the read-across process). This makes it possible to perform toxicological assessments of chemicals without additional animal experiments and to avoid new studies accompanied by a large number of experimental animals. The prizewinners used artificial intelligence to develop the RASAR model (read-across-based structure activity relationships), which uses information from toxicological databases to make automated predictions and can therefore help to reduce the number of animal experiments.

The jury of the Händel Prize was not only impressed by the research of the two researchers into alternative methods, but also by their services in the area of method implementation and the associated gaining of acceptance in toxicology. Through the international networking of the different stakeholders (researchers, regulatory authorities, non-governmental organisations and industry) in particular, they have managed to make a major contribution to the recognition of alternative methods.

Prof. Dr. Dr. med. Thomas Hartung

Prof. Dr. Dr. med. Thomas Hartung Ursula M. Händel  Animal Welfare Prizewinner 2020

Prof. Dr. Dr. med. Thomas Hartung Ursula M. Händel Animal Welfare Prizewinner 2020


Thomas Hartung studied computer science, biochemistry and medicine. He earned his doctorate as a toxicologist in 1992 in Tübingen before taking up a post as assistant professor in Konstanz. After working for some years as CEO of Steinbeis Technology Transfer Center for In Vitro Pharmacology and Toxicology, he headed the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods in the Italian town of Ispra between 2002 and 2008. He has been a professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and co-director of CAAT in Konstanz since 2009. CAAT is a joint venture between the universities in Baltimore and Konstanz and is supported by the Swiss Doerenkamp-Zbinden Foundation for Animalfree Research. Hartung is also an honorary professor in Konstanz. He has received many prizes for his research work, such as the US Society of Toxicology Enhancement of Animal Welfare Award.

Prof. Dr. Marcel Leist

Prof. Dr. Marcel Leist Ursula M. Händel  Animal Welfare Prizewinner 2020

Prof. Dr. Marcel Leist Ursula M. Händel Animal Welfare Prizewinner 2020


Marcel Leist has been co-director of CAAT-Europe since its foundation in 2009. The biochemistry and toxicology graduate earned his doctorate in Konstanz. Following that, he worked at the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam-Rehbrücke before returning to the University of Konstanz to work as Head of Division. From 2000 to 2006, he worked at the pharmaceutical company Lundbeck in Copenhagen, before once again returning to Konstanz to take up the Chair of In Vitro Toxicology and Biomedicine there. Leist has received several prizes for his work, including the Animal Welfare Research Award from the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture.


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