Announcing IFER’s 2022-23 Research Fellows


The International Foundation for Ethical Research (IFER), an affiliate of the National Anti-Vivisection Society, is pleased to announce its 2022-23 Graduate Fellows for Alternatives to the Use of Animals in Science. This year, nine graduate students across various disciplines will receive $12,500 grants. IFER grants are renewable for up to three years.

The 2022-23 fellowship recipient class is one of the largest in IFER’s 37-year history. IFER Fellowships are awarded to students enrolled in graduate programs from across the world after a rigorous selection process in which IFER’s Scientific Advisory Board chooses projects based on their scientific merit and the likelihood that the projects can replace the use of animals is science. The 2022-23 IFER Fellowships are generously made possible by supporters like you, as they are funded by a grant from NAVS.

This year, fellowships have been awarded to fund four new graduate student projects and the renewal of five previously awarded projects.

The four new graduate fellowship recipients and their projects are:

Kaihua (Chloe) Chen, University of Rochester

“In vitro studies of biophysical and molecular determinants of the blood-brain barrier during sepsis and systemic inflammation”

Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening condition that takes place when the body responds to an infection but damages its own tissues during the process. Survivors of severe sepsis often have cognitive loss and mental problems believed to be linked to brain injury resulting from the destruction of the blood brain barrier and transport of septic factors through blood flow. Although mice are commonly used to model sepsis, they do not give response profiles resembling those of humans. In this proposal, Chloe plans to develop a human cell-based model to study brain injury during sepsis. Her model will include the three cell types comprising the neurovascular unit (human blood vessel cells, astrocytes, and pericytes) along with a microfluidic component that allows for circulating flow with a physiological level of shear stress. She will use the model to investigate how individual cell types respond to a simulated septic “cytokine storm” and will investigate whether sphingosine 1 phosphate offers a protective effect.


Jason Eades, Texas A&M University

“Replacing animal models of thrombosis with Vein-Chip: A case study evaluating SARS-CoV-2-induced thrombosis and mechanical therapeutics”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some individuals infected with coronavirus developed blood clotting conditions, including deep vein thrombosis, but the mechanism for how this occurs remains unknown.  In this research, Jason plans to use a vein chip developed in his lab as a preclinical nonanimal model to better understand this process.  Jason’s lab has developed a vein chip model in which blood vessel cells can be cultured with proteins they would normally interact with in the body. Fluids such as patient blood can be circulated through the device at different flow rates to mimic normal and pathological conditions.  Jason will introduce an inactivated version of the virus—as well as structural proteins of the virus and cytokines normally found with virus infection—to the vein chip. He will then use a variety of approaches to better understand the impact of the virus on blood vessel cells and blood clot formation. Jason will also use the device to study the impact of compression therapy for thrombosis.


Divya Subramanian, The University of Texas at Dallas

“Development of a novel in-vitro biomimetic corneal stroma using microfluidics to study corneal wound healing”

The cornea is part of the outermost layer of the eye, and is most likely to become damaged. As a result, corneal wound healing is a significant clinical problem and an important medical issue. Current  research currently relies heavily on animal models, particularly rabbits. However, differences between rabbit and human corneas make extrapolation of data across species problematic. In her proposal, Divya is planning to develop novel human cell-based models of the corneal stroma for use in wound healing studies. To better mimic the native cornea stromal structure, she will be growing a human corneal keratocyte cell line on micropatterns of aligned collagen fibrils. She will then develop a wound healing assay in this system to reduce the use of animals for this purpose.


Yansong (Harry) Peng, Cornell University

“A tissue-engineered pancreatic cancer model for dissecting the roles of lymphatic vessels in tumor immunity”

Pancreatic cancer remains one of the most lethal forms of cancer, with a 5-year survival rate of less than 10%. Although there is an FDA-approved immunotherapy for the disease, fewer than 10% of patients respond to it, and questions remain about how to make immunotherapies more effective treatments. Some think the resistance to immunotherapy is caused by defects in lymphatic vessels. These defects increase the interstitial fluid pressure in the tumors and reduce the ability of immune cells to enter. In his proposal, Harry seeks to create a 3D microfluidic model of vascularized pancreatic cancer tumors in a device containing blood vessels, lymphatic vessels and pancreatic cancer cells. Using his model, he will mimic the interstitial fluid flow found in normal and tumor tissues and examine the effect this has on infiltration of immune cells and response to cancer immunotherapies. The pancreatic cancer-on-a-chip model has the potential to provide a better understanding of the mechanism of immunity to immunotherapies and to serve as a platform for the screening of drugs for this condition—all while reducing the use of animal models.

Congratulations to this year’s graduate fellowship recipients, and thank you to all the graduate students who submitted proposals.

Our ability to support outstanding graduate students dedicated to developing animal-free alternatives is limited only by our available funding. Please consider making a donation today to help NAVS and IFER continue funding smarter, human-relevant science that does not harm animals.