Björn Ekwall Memorial Foundation (BEMF)


Award winner 2023

Professor Dr. Marcel Leist, chair of the In Vitro Toxicology and Biomedicine Department inaugurated by the Doerenkamp-Zbinden foundation at the University of Konstanz in Germany and the director of the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing in Europe (CAAT-Europe), is the recipient of the Björn Ekwall Memorial Award for the year 2023.

Award winner 2022

Dr. Helena Kandarova Senior Scientist in Centre of Experimental Medicine at the Slovak Academy of Science, Bratislava, Slovakia and Assistant professor in the Faculty of Chemical and Food Technology, Institute of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Bratislava, Slovakia, is the recipient of the Björn Ekwall Memorial Award for the year 2022.

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Award winner 2020

Dr. Sandra Coecke, senior scientist at European Commission Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy, is the recipient of the Björn Ekwall Memorial Award for the year 2020. Due to Covid-19 restrictions the award will be presented 2021.

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Award winner 2019

Dr. Jan van der Valk, director of the 3Rs-Center Utrecht Life Sciences at the faculty of Medicine, Utrecht University has been selected as the recipient of the Björn Ekwall Memorial Award for the year 2019.

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Award winner 2018

Dr Anna Forsby, Associate Professor at Stockholm University, and at the Swedish Toxicological Sciences Research Center, has been selected as the recipient of the Björn Ekwall Memorial Award for the year 2018.

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Award winner 2017

Professor Thomas Hartung from the Johns Hopkins University, the United States of America, is the recipient of the Björn Ekwall Memorial Award for the year 2017.

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Award winner 2016

Professor Vera Rogiers from Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Belgium, is the recipient of the Björn Ekwall Memorial Award for the year 2016.

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The BEMF stipends 2016 were given to Chloe Raffalli and Karoline Buyl

The BEMF stipends 2016, financed together by BEMF and Willy and Berit Heymans Animal Protection Foundation, were given to two Ph.D. students to facilitate their participation in the ESTIV 2016 Congress: Chloe Raffalli from Dept. of Immuno-toxicology, Paris-Sud University, France and Karoline Buyl from the Dept. of in vitro toxicology and dermato-cosmetology, Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.

Award winner 2015

The BEMF board has selected Prof. Michael Balls from England as recipient of the 2015 Björn Ekwall Memorial Award.

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The BMEF stipend 2015 was given to Andy Forreryd

The BEMF stipend 2015 for a PhD student was given to Andy Forreryd from the Department of Immunotechnology, Lund University, Sweden, to enable him to participate in the SSCT-SweTox meeting in Bommersvik (October 13-15, 2015). A. Forreryd was selected from three candidates by the BEMF board members as a most promising candidate. At the meeting he gave 20 min oral presentation with the title: “Prediction of chemical respiratory sensitizers using GARD, a novel in vitro assay based on a genomic biomarker signature”.

Willy och Berit Heymans Djurskyddsstiftelsen

Willy and Berit Heymans Animal Protection Foundation supports several projects, dealing with animal welfare and influencing public opinion about animal protection legislation ( The Foundation also supports scientists working actively in the field of in vitro toxicology, for replacement of animal experimentation by alternative methods and for development of non-animal in vitro tests. The financial means donated to BEMF by this foundation will be used for support of promising PhD students doing research in the field of cell toxicology, to give them a possibility to participate in the scientific conferences and workshops, where they could present the results of their studies.

Report on the SSCT-Swetox workshop: Mechanisms, markers and models - the 3M strategy in risk assessment.

13-15 October 2015, Bommersvik Course Centre

In the mid-October 2015, more than 60 scientists from Sweden and other countries (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Norway, UK, USA) met at the course centre Bommersvik for a three days’ workshop on new, modern and non-animal methods to test and examine toxic substances. The Björn Ekwall Memorial (BEM) Award was presented to Michael Balls, who gave the BEM lecture.

Bommersvik course centre is beautifully situated right next to the lake Ygnern 50 km south of Stockholm, and at this time of the year surrounded by autumn's brilliant colours. The meeting was very well organized by Scandinavian Society for Cell Toxicology (SSCT) in collaboration with the newly established Swedish Toxicology Sciences Research Centre (Swetox).

The Swedish Fund for Research without Animal Experiments hosted one of the sessions and I had the pleasure to lead the discussions. First among the speakers was Stina Oredsson from Lund University. She spoke captivating about the ethical and scientific issues, related to the fact that most cultivation of cells takes place in the presence of blood serum (fetal bovine serum, FBS) from unborn cow calves. To replace FBS in cell culturing, the use of donor herd horse serum was recommended to relieve the ethical problems. Lena Palmberg from the Karolinska Institute then described her work to develop a three-dimensional system of cultured human cells of the respiratory tract. She successfully used this model for studying effects of nanoparticles present in air pollution on human bronchial epithelial cells.

The concluding presentation by Anna Herland from the Karolinska Institute addressed a novel technology referred to as Organs on Chips in which miniature organ models are created by growing human cells in micro systems where a steady stream of nutrients and oxygen can be created. These new in vitro models can serve as human-relevant alternatives to animal-based models, and can be used in mechanistic studies, as well as in risk assessment.

Other sessions dealt with subjects like Immune and hematopoetic toxicity, toxicokinetics and metabolism, integrated test strategies for risk assessment, adverse effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals and regulatory aspects of nanoparticle safety. A large number of interesting and well prepared free oral presentations and poster presentations were made as part of the main programme.

The prize for a best oral presentation was received by Andy Forreryd from Dept. of Immunotechnology, Lund University for his contribution “Prediction of chemical respiratory sensitizers using GARD, a novel in vitro assay based on a genomic biomarker signature”. Andy Forreryd also received our BEMF grant, given to young PhD student to enable their participation in the workshops.

The prize for a best poster was received by Kristina Attoff from Department of Neurochemistry, Stockholm University for her poster titled “The effect of acrylamide on proliferation and differentiation in the SH-SY5Y and C17.2 neural cell models”.

In the afternoon of the second day of the workshop, we in the capacity of Chair and v. Chair of BEMF, presented the BEM Award - diploma and flowers – to Professor Michael Balls from the United Kingdom, the University of Nottingham. Michael Balls then delivered a very entertaining and in some respects provocative BEMF lecture under the title “Scandinavia and the replacement of in vivo toxicity tests: Some personal reflections” (The lecture will be published in ATLA in December 2015).

Encouraging and exciting news were presented by Ian Cotgreave from Swetox. The EU commission has funded €30 million to an international consortium of 39 partner organizations to work on the integration of new concepts for regulatory chemical safety assessment. The programme EU-ToxRisk has the ambition to become the flagship in Europe for animal-free chemical safety assessment. The project will integrate advancements in cell biology, omics technologies, systems biology, and computational modelling to define the complex chains of events that link chemical exposure to toxic outcome. Thus, the project strives towards faster safety evaluation of the many chemicals used by industry and the society. Swetox is one of the members of the consortium.

Ada Kolman

Chair BEMF

Erik Walum

v. Chair BEMF

9th World Congress on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences

24-28 August 2014, Prague, Czech Republic

The 9th World Congress (WC9) was the first in Europe after acceptance by EU countries in 2010 the 3Rs-principles (Replacement, Refinement, Reduction) of W. Russel and R. Burch, postulated by them in 1959 in their book “The Principles of Human Experimental Technique”. Motto of the WC9 was: “Human science in the 21st century”. The congress was attended by over 1015 participants from 49 countries; over 450 oral presentations and 460 posters were contributed. The co-chairs of the congress were Dr. Dagmar Jírová from National Institute of Public Health, Prague, Czech Republic, and Professor Horst Spielmann from the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. The organization of the congress was excellent, both from scientific and social point of views.

Award winner 2014

The BEMF board has selected Dr. Tuula Heinonen from Finland as recipient of the 2014 Björn Ekwall Memorial Award.

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Scandinavian Society for Cell Toxicology (SSCT) celebrated its 30 year activity

The 29th Workshop of Scandinavian Society for Cell Toxicology: “Frontiers in Cell Toxicity Testing”

25th-27th September in Vilvorde Cource Center, Charlottenlund, Denmark

Summary of the Workshop by Hanna Tähti, FICAM, University of Tampere

The local organizers of the 29th SSCT Workshop were Professor Lisbeth E. Knudsen and Dr. Line Mathiesen (Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen) with the help of an International Scientific Advisory Committee. When opening the Workshop, Prof. Knudsen mentioned that according to the Directive/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific research the most pragmatic approach to reduce experiments on animals is the introduction of alternative methods (Replacement alternatives) that may replace animal testing. Many new methods based on the use of human cells or tissue models were presented. In addition, the high throughput-methods, in silico methods, and QSAR’s for the evaluation of toxic hazards were also important topics. The adverse outcome pathway (AOP) approach was highlighted in many presentations as a new integrated testing strategy to evaluate chemical toxicity in vitro.

With this Workshop SSCT celebrated its 30-year anniversary. Professor Erik Walum, the first president of SSCT gave a lecture about the history of SSCT ( abstract and presentation ). SSCT was established in 1983, October 21, in Uppsala. The first meeting was held on the initiative of Björn Ekwall, and after that the SSCT workshop has been organized every year with exception of the year 2010, when the meeting intended to take place in Norway was cancelled. The important mission of SSCT has been to promote the study of effects of chemicals in cellular models. This mission was concretized in the Multicentre Evaluation of In Vitro Cytotoxicity (MEIC) programme (1989-1999), initiated and guided by Dr. Björn Ekwall. The main goal of the project was the evaluation of the predictive value of in vitro cytotoxicity tests for human toxicity.

The Björn Ekwall Memorial Lecture was given by Professor Per Artursson (Uppsala University, Sweden) who received the Björn Ekwall Memorial Award 2013. The President of BEMF Ada Kolman ( se short presentation of BEMF ) presented the motivation for the award and handed out the diploma to Per Artursson.

In this presentation “Towards quantitative predictions of ADMET properties in vitro” Prof. Artursson very interestingly told about the failure of 40% of drug candidates during the clinical trials causing unpredictable pharmacokinetic events. He told that today the application of new methods based on advanced cell and molecular biology in early drug discovery has resulted in almost complete elimination of clinical failure due to unpredictable pharmaceutical events. In some cases, these methods have been accepted by regulatory agencies as surrogates for in vivo studies. He also presented weaknesses of the current in vitro methodologies: composed pharmacodynamics properties such as drug exposure and adverse effects remain difficult to predict in vitro. To overcome these difficulties, he presented recent approaches towards more quantitative predictions of drug exposure: e.g. models for estimation of free drug concentration, proteomics-informed quantification of drug transport and metabolism, and in vitro predictions of drug induced liver injury.

The Workshop “Frontiers in Cell Toxicity Testing” consisted of 5 sessions and a poster exhibition. Together, there were 28 oral presentations and 12 poster presentations.The number of participants was 71, from 9 countries. It was delightful that there were many young scientists participating. The posters were presented in the lecture hall, and shortly also to the whole auditorium as short summaries. The workshop was very well organized and both scientifically and socially interesting and successful.

The speakers were invited by the organizers to submit their presentations issued as mini reviews to the Journal of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology. The topics of the oral sessions are listed below:

Session 1. New technologies in cell toxicity testing

Session 2: Pathways of toxicity

Session 3: In vitro/ in silico analysis for risk assessment

Session 4: 3D and ex vivo tissue models

Session 5: In vitro tests for Human Biomonitoring

At the end of the Workshop three prizes to young scientists were delivered: The prize for the best oral presentation to Thit Aarøe Mørck, for the best poster to Henrik Johansson, and for best poster describing a replacement strategy to Jonas Christoffersson, sponsored by the Danish Animal Welfare Society, the Committee for Experimental animals.

Human in vivo database now on ACuteTox home page

The main goal of the EU project ACuteTox (2005-2010), under the title „Optimisation and pre-validation of an in vitro test strategy for predicting human acute toxicity“, was to develop in vitro and in silico methods which could replace animal tests of chemicals. In the project a set of 97 selected reference chemicals were tested in a large amount of in vitro assays, and the results were compared with animal (LD50) and human (blood concentrations measurements in victims of poisoning) data. Therefore, one part of the project was creation of a human in vivo database, which is now available at the ACuteTox home page:

In the human in vivo database over 2800 human cases are compiled. Tables with sub-lethal, lethal and post-mortem doses at the acute poisoning, with/without time information, are presented. Each case of poisoning is provided by age and sex of a victim, type of poisoning (intentional or unintentional), toxic dose of chemical, time from exposure to sampling (if available), blood concentration of chemical, symptoms and signs of poisoning, as well as the treatment of a poisoned person (if available). Human blood concentration data have been collected from clinical and forensic medical case reports. Among sources of information were the monographs from the MEMO database created by Dr. Björn Ekwall (1940-2000) and his colleagues in the Multicentre Evaluation of In Vitro Cytotoxicity (MEIC) study. Unfortunately, MEMO database is not any more available at the internet, but most of the data are included in the ACuteTox database. Other sources were papers in the international journals, Swedish Poison Information Centre, poison information centers in other countries, several databases, e.g. Poisindex, Thomson Micromedex, HSDB, ChemIDPlus etc.

Availability of human poisoning data was limited by lack of the data concerning of acute exposure (i.e. accidental ingestion, suicidal overdose, etc.) and/or lack in many cases of clinical/forensic monitoring of a victim/patient with reported blood concentration measurements. For these reasons eleven chemicals (of 97) remain without any reported acute poisoning cases.

In the database you can find also references to all cases of poisoning, as well as „summary descriptions“ of all 97 chemicals. In summary descriptions the most important knowledge is summarized, e.g. human toxicity data (acute lethal doses, lowest lethal doses, blood concentrations, etc.), kinetic data, metabolism and excretion, toxicological mechanisms of action, target organs etc.). The authors do hope that human in vivo database will be useful not only for cell toxicologists developing new in vitro assays, but also for medical doctors dealing with human poisoning.

Read more about the human in vivo database in Kolman, A. & Clemedsson, C. (2013) Human in vivo database now on ACuteTox home page. Toxicology in vitro 27, 2350-2351.

Ada Kolman

Cecilia Clemedson

Stockholm, 2013-08-03

Award winner 2013

The BEMF board has selected Prof. Per Artursson from Sweden as recipient of the 2013 Björn Ekwall Memorial Award.

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Swedish Animal Friends National Organisation (Djurens Vänners Riksorganisation) is celebrating 55 years

Swedish Animal Friends National Organisation was founded June 8, 1957, in Örebro. Today it consists of 14 sections located in different cities in Sweden. Three first sections wereestablished already in 1952 in Malmö, Helsingborg and Göteborg. Later, similar sections were opened in Stockholm, Uppsala, Karlstad, Borlänge, Karlskrona, Norrtälje and several other places. In 1957 all these sections were united under the name „Animal Friends National Organisation”, which is a non-profit body fighting for animal protection and financing its activities by collecting money from private persons and several companies/organisations.

The main tasks of Animal Friends are described on their home page:

I will not recapitulate here all tasks, but I wish to point out the most important goals which are common for the Björn Ekvall Memorial Foundation (BEMF) and the Animal Friends:

„to disclose facts about the painful animal experiments and work for a law supporting alternative research; to be opinion leaders for better animal welfare laws and better animal


The Björn Ekwall Memorial Foundation (BEMF) celebrated in 2011 its 10th Anniversary. During the past decade, the Björn Ekwall Memorial Award was given to twelve outstanding

scientists who significantly contributed to the field of cell toxicology by development,implementation and validation of non-animal alternative toxicity tests or by other research

leading to reduction and/or replacement of animal experiments. The BEMF support of distinguished scientists in the field of in vitro toxicology and alternative methods contributes to the acceptance of non-animal methods in toxicology.

To be able to hand out the prize every year, the BEMF is dependent on financial support from companies, organisations and private donors. The Swedish Animal Friends National

Organisation is one of the most significant donators to the BEMF (donations years 2009, 2011 and 2012). Without this generous help we couldn’t be able yearly reward scientists for their achievements in non-animal toxicological research. Our deep gratitude is going to this organisation and its members.

Ada Kolman, PhD, assoc. Professor

President of the Björn Ekwall Memorial Foundation