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Environmental Factor, December 2015

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NTP highlights new technologies to protect health and environment

By Catherine Sprankle

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Twenty National Toxicology Program (NTP) scientists and contractors joined about 300 other researchers to assess how high throughput laboratory methods and big data analysis techniques could be applied to chemical safety testing. A keynote lecture at the meeting focused on using use these approaches to identify endocrine disruptors.

FutureTox III: Bridges for Translation focused on “Transforming 21st Century Science Into Risk Assessment and Regulatory Decision-making.” The meeting, held Nov. 19-20 in Arlington, Virginia, was the third in a series organized by the Society of Toxicology to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders to consider how new technologies can be applied to protect human health and the environment.

New technology to identify endocrine disruptors

In his keynote address, Jim Jones, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, noted how high throughput screening and computational toxicology tools are used in the EPA Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program to identify chemicals that could affect the estrogen pathway. He also announced an aggressive timeline to begin use of such tools for androgen pathway testing.

The announcement was met with enthusiasm by attendees, including Nicole Kleinstreuer, Ph.D., senior computational toxicologist for ILS, a contractor supporting the NTP Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (NICEATM). “It’s exciting to see diverse groups collaborating on projects leading to real progress towards regulatory applications,” she noted. Kleinstreuer, who moderated a breakout group at the meeting, contributed to developing the testing approaches described by Jones.

NTP research showcased in poster session

NTP scientists co-authored 15 of the more than 80 posters presented at the meeting’s poster session. Of these, five focused on NICEATM projects to develop alternative methods for identifying potential endocrine disruptors and skin sensitizers. Other NTP posters described use of high throughput assays and computational approaches applications such as prioritizing compounds for future testing and identifying substances likely to cause DNA damage or birth defects.

Several presentations discussed using high throughput and computational methods to assess toxicity and exposure, as well as the use of such methods by EPA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to regulate labeling and handling of chemicals, drugs, and medical devices.

Four breakout groups considered the regulatory applications of high throughput screening and computational toxicology tools in more detail. The group moderated by Kleinstreuer focused on identification of endocrine disruptors. Other groups considered the topics of drug development, proposals for reform of chemical safety regulation, and issues affecting international trade.

Speakers and moderators at the workshop will co-author a report for publication in 2016.

(Catherine Sprankle, is a communications specialist with ILS, who supports NICEATM.)

Judy Strickland, John Reichard, and Qingda Zang

Judy Strickland, Ph.D., center, senior toxicologist from ILS, discussed her poster with John Reichard, Ph.D., right, of the Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment Center at the University of Cincinnati, and ILS colleague Qingda Zang, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of Xiaoqing Chang)

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