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Paules Honored with Leading Edge Award

By Eddy Ball
April 2010

Richard Paules, Ph.D.
Speaking of the translational impact of toxicogenomics, Paules said, "There are very clear applications in the present and near future that are incremental steps, such as fit-for-use purposes in the clinical setting." He mentioned specifically predictive tests for preventing and treating liver damage well before it shows up on the clinical chemistry tests currently used. (Photo courtesy of Ed Kang)

As far as NIEHS Principal Investigator Richard Paules, Ph.D., is concerned, he wasn't entirely alone on stage when he accepted the 2010 Leading Edge in Basic Science Award at the Society of Toxicology (SOT) Annual Meeting March 7-11 in Salt Lake City. Although he was the individual singled out for the honor, Paules felt the presence there of the many friends and colleagues who have worked to advance the field of toxicogenomics (see text box) and predictive toxicology over the past 15 years.

Paules credits collaborations, community, and consortia

"I feel honored to receive the award for the Institute," said Paules, who heads the Environmental Stress and Cancer Group and directs the Microarray Core Facility at NIEHS. "There have been a huge number of people who have contributed significantly to the development of toxicogenomics here at NIEHS, and I felt that I was a representative for all of those people."

Paules pointed to colleagues from the intramural program and grantees in the National Center for Toxicogenomics (NCT), postdoctoral fellows in the several labs involved, and scientists in the National Toxicology Program, as well as the inspired leadership of former Director Ken Olden, Ph.D.

SOT underscores Paules' leadership and innovation

Recognizing Paules "for his work in the integration of genomics into the investigation of the molecular basis of injury and disease processes," the award committee described him as "a visionary... who has diligently positioned NIEHS at the forefront of the field." The commendation recognized Paules for his administrative and scientific leadership and his advocacy of the development of publicly accessible databases to facilitate discovery research using ‘omics methodologies.

The awards committee emphasized the importance of Paules' leading edge proof-of-concept studies in the development of predictive biomarkers of the initiation and progression of those processes.

Building on successes and looking ahead

As part of his honor, Paules presented an award lecture on "Toxicogenomics at NIEHS: How Genomics Is Impacting the Science of Toxicology." He reflected on the "big-science" team approach to addressing the challenges of applying ‘omics technologies, including "technical problems associated with gene annotation and platform development, detection of true signals, bioinformatic determination of significant changes, and reliability across different platforms and different users."

"While the challenges [of developing signatures to utilize as clinical biomarkers of specific adverse effects] are great," Paules concluded, "the prospects have never been brighter."

"I really hope to provide better science for better treatment of disease," Paules said as he looked toward the future. "There's a huge need to put better information in the hands of clinicians, and I think genomics is an important tool for helping us reach that goal."

Defining "Toxicogenomics"

Environmental toxicogenomics is an approach to environmental toxicology that allows researchers to identify and characterize genomic signatures of environmental toxicants as gene and protein expression profiles as well as metabolite profiles. A major application of gene expression profiling is to understand human genetic variability and susceptibility to adverse exposures and to disease development and progression.

Program Goals

  • To facilitate the application of genome-wide gene and protein expression technology to toxicology
  • To understand the relationship between environmental exposures and human disease susceptibility
  • To identify useful biomarkers of disease and exposure to toxic substances
  • To improve computational methods for understanding the biological consequences of and responses to exposure
  • To create a public database of environmental effects of toxic substances in biological systems

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