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Catherine Willett, Ph.D.

Director of Regulatory Toxicology, Risk Assessment, and Alternatives, Animal Research Issues

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Catherine Willett is The HSUS's Director of Regulatory Toxicology, Risk Assessment, and Alternatives. Catherine Willett/The HSUS

Dr. Catherine Willett is the Director of Regulatory Toxicology, Risk Assessment, and Alternatives for The HSUS's Animal Research Issues department.

She focuses on the science, public policy, and regulatory aspects of replacing animals with non-animal alternatives when assessing chemicals for safety. She works with regulatory agencies (such as the Environmental Protection Agency), scientists, and policy makers in the U.S. and internationally.

Dr. Willett participates in several expert groups, is invited to speak at various international scientific conferences, and represents the International Council on Animal Protection (ICAPO) of the Test Guidelines Program at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which impacts chemical testing programs internationally.

She coordinates the Human Toxicology Project Consortium, a group of industry and nonprofit stakeholders that seeks to ultimately replace animals in toxicity testing with non-animal alternatives. She oversees AltTox.org, a website for the exchange of scientific information on alternatives to animal testing. She is also an associate member of the Society of Toxicology, serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Institute of In Vitro Sciences, and has served on the board of the International QSAR Foundation.

Before joining The HSUS, Dr. Willett served as Science Policy Advisor for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

She also worked as a senior scientist at Phylonix Pharmaceuticals, where she pioneered the use of zebrafish assays for drug screening. During that time, Dr. Willett was Principle Investigator on several projects funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation in the areas of angiogenesis, developmental toxicity, hepatic toxicity, developmental neurotoxicity, and endocrine disruption. 

In her post-doctoral work at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dr. Willett initiated the study of the zebrafish immune system, demonstrating that the fish immune system shares many cellular, molecular, and developmental similarities with the mammalian immune system.

Dr. Willett received a master's degree and a doctorate in genetics from the University of California, Davis, where she studied the genetics and biochemistry of gene regulation in yeast.

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