3R Center Tübingen

For In Vitro Models and Alternatives to Animal Testing

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Who We Are

3R - research, information and networking for Baden-Württemberg

In 2018, almost 2.1 million laboratory animals were used throughout Germany for scientific purposes such as basic research, drug development or the investigation of diseases. Baden-Württemberg performs the most animal research in Germany due to the high density of research in the state. As an important biomedical research location, Baden-Württemberg bears a special responsibility for laboratory animal welfare. In recognition of this responsibility, the Ministry for Science, Research and Art Baden-Württemberg, led by Minister Theresia Bauer, funded the 3R Center Tübingen. The 3Rs stand for Replacement, Reduction and Refinement.


Replacement can be defined as methods, strategies or approaches which do not involve the use of live animals. This can include the use of methods such as in vitro human test systems, computer-based models and -omnics technologies, such as proteomics.


Reduction is any method that will result in fewer animals being used in the original procedure and/or limiting or avoiding the subsequent use of additional animals. It is essential for reduction that studies are appropriately designed to ensure robust and reproducible findings.


Refinement is the minimization of the pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm that may be experienced by research animals, as well as the general improve of their welfare. Refinement applies to all aspects of animal use, from birth until death.

EU Law

In Directive 2010/63/EU, the EU defines the principle of the “Three Rs” and makes it a firm legal requirement regarding the protection of animals used for scientific purposes, as well as all animal breeding and care.

Our Team

Katja Schenke-Layland Prof. Dr. Katja Schenke-Layland Professor at the University Women's Hospital Tübingen Director of the NMI Reutlingen Director of the 3R Center Tübingen

Prof. Schenke-Layland's research focuses on the development of diagnostic tools and test systems to validate therapeutic candidates and diagnose disease, as well as the translation of basic biology into clinically relevant biomaterials and regenerative therapies. Her research group was the first to differentiate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into cells of the cardiovascular and hematopoietic lineages, which are now the gold standard for human-based in vitro test systems of those lineages. She has been involved in the development of multiple in vitro test systems for the replacement of animal tests, such as skin, intestine and kidney test systems.

Silke Keller
Silke Keller Head of the 3R Center business unit

Silke Keller performed her undergraduate work in Bioanalysis and Imaging at the University of Reutlingen and her PhD thesis at the University of Stuttgart and Fraunhofer IGB with a focus on the extensive (bio-)chemical characterization and optimization of cell-derived azide-modified extracellular matrix for the use as a biomaterial. She began her postdoctoral work as a project leader at the Fraunhofer IGB where she worked on the development Organ-on-Chip systems as alternative methods to animal testing and to better understand human biology. In September 2020, she moved to the 3R-Center Tübingen, where she became the head of the 3R-Center for in-vitro models and alternatives to animal testing.

Julia Heldmaier
Julia Heldmaier Assistance to the Head of the 3R Center business unit

Julia Heldmaier completed her training as an office management assistant at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) in Tübingen and joined the administration team as a permanent employee after graduating from the commercial vocational college in Reutlingen in 2017. She then transitioned from the MPI in Tübingen to the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases e.V. (DZNE) in Tübingen in April 2018. Due to her professional training, she became familiar with the administrative activities in a research institution at a very early stage. In September 2020, she transitioned to the 3R-Center for in-vitro models and alternatives to animal testing in Tübingen.

What We Do

Providing and driving alternatives

The 3R Center Tübingen for In vitro Models and Alternatives to Animal Testing is a collaborative research center between the University Hospital Tübingen and the Natural and Medical Sciences Institute (NMI) Reutlingen. It aims to provide all scientists in Baden-Württemberg with low-threshold access to novel alternative methods to animal testing. By strengthening research competencies, an interdisciplinary awareness of these new approaches is to be created so that alternative methods can be applied widely and routinely in practice in a targeted manner in order to reduce the number of animal experiments to an absolute necessary minimum in the long term. Furthermore, the state-wide cross-sectional center will represent the 3Rs topic in the research landscape, politics and the broad public in Baden-Württemberg and actively support and promote exchange and profound networking through information, communication and the establishment of training programs and workshops.


A bridge professorship was created between the University Hospital Tübingen and the NMI. The position will focus on the development of organ-on-a-chip technologies as alternative tests to animals in the areas of toxicology, personalized medicine and biomedical research.


The decision which alternative method or technology can replace an animal experiment in a specific scientific question is not always a trivial one. The 3R-Center will therefore support researchers in the future by offering specialized trainings and instructional services in the planning of experiments and provide them with a wide range of information to help them seek new alternatives to animal testing.


Creating a strong network between researchers, educators and industry will be a major cornerstone purpose of the 3R Center. Enalbing the development of new technologies and disciminating new research throughout Baden-Württemberg will have drive the use of animal alternative test models.


Current Virtual Events

The ALTEX List

The Alternatives to Animal Experimentation (ALTEX) journal has compiled an exhaustive list of current events which can be found here

The NC3Rs List

The National Centre for the Replacement Refinement and Reduction of Animal Research (NC3Rs) UK has events and online courses which can be found here


The National Insitutes of Health Office of Animal Welfare(NIH OLAW) USA has events and online courses which can be found here


Latest news in the area of 3Rs

Official press release of the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts (MWK) on the establishment of the state-wide 3R-Network Baden-Württemberg

In the official press release, Minister of Science Theresia Bauer reports on the founding and emergence of the state-wide 3R-Network, which bundles the diverse expertise of the research sites in Baden-Württemberg and further anchors the development and application of alternative and complementary methods to animal experimentation in the Baden-Württemberg research landscape. The 3R-Center Tübingen coordinates the cooperation and coordination within this network and represents the interface between science, politics and the public. [read more]

Open positions

Job offerings in the area of 3Rs

PhD Position: Characterization and Advancement of 3D Heterotypic Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer (HNSCC) Spheroids

UMM Universitätsmedizin Mannheim

3D-cancer cell culture models have been developed in order to mimic the tumor and its microenvironment. Within this project, you will use 3D-bioprinting of suitable biomaterials to engineer and manipulate heterotypic HNSCC spheroids in vitro. You will characterize 3D-bioprinted HNSCC spheroids and further optimize them to resemble the tumor architecture. You will apply humanized culture conditions using human platelet lysate or human serum to replace fetal bovine serum. You will use kinetic live cell imaging (Incucyte SX5 technology) to automatically monitor and quantify spheroid formation, growth and cellular changes. Finally, you will add endothelial and immune cells to optimize bioprinted spheroids and to quantify dynamic drug responses of e.g. anti-angiogenic or immune-based drugs. [download info]

Contact Us



NMI Natural and Medical Sciences Institute at the University of Tübingen
Markwiesenstrasse 55
72770 Reutlingen

Funded by