Overcoming scientific barriers in the transition from in vivo to non-animal batch testing of human and veterinary vaccines

Robin H.G.A. van den Biggelaar, Marcel H.N. Hoefnagel, Rob J. Vandebriel, Arjen Sloots, Coenraad F.M. Hendriksen, Willem van Eden, Victor P.M.G. Rutten, Christine A. Jansen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction: Before release, vaccine batches are assessed for quality to evaluate whether they meet the product specifications. Vaccine batch tests, in particular of inactivated and toxoid vaccines, still largely rely on in vivo methods. Improved vaccine production processes, ethical concerns, and suboptimal performance of some in vivo tests have led to the development of in vitro alternatives. Areas covered: This review describes the scientific constraints that need to be overcome for replacement of in vivo batch tests, as well as potential solutions. Topics include the critical quality attributes of vaccines that require testing, the use of cell-based assays to mimic aspects of in vivo vaccine-induced immune responses, how difficulties with testing adjuvanted vaccines in vitro can be overcome, the use of altered batches to validate new in vitro test methods, and how cooperation between different stakeholders is key to moving the transition forward. Expert opinion: For safety testing, many in vitro alternatives are already available or at an advanced level of development. For potency testing, in vitro alternatives largely comprise immunochemical methods that assess several, but not all critical vaccine properties. One-to-one replacement by in vitro alternatives is not always possible and a combination of methods may be required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1221-1233
JournalExpert Review of Vaccines
Issue number10
Early online date22 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • 3rs
  • alternatives
  • animal model
  • in vitro
  • potency
  • quality control
  • safety
  • vaccines


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