Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

January 2018

NTP board meeting highlights new tools, technologies, and methods

John Bucher Bucher is a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology and recipient of the Doerenkamp-Zbinden Foundation Award for Animal Protection in Science, along with numerous NIH awards. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

New tools, technologies, and approaches in toxicology were key topics at the Dec. 7-8 meeting of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) Board of Scientific Counselors (BSC).

Board members received updates on NTP initiatives, such as efforts to reduce experimental animal use, new testing strategies for developmental neurotoxicity and skin hypersensitivity, new approaches to data, together with reports on recent scientific meetings.

Beyond the wealth of science, panelists and NTP staffers in attendance also enjoyed the opportunity to bid farewell to outgoing NTP Associate Director John Bucher, Ph.D., at his final BSC meeting (see sidebar).

Hitting the gas

A major theme of the meeting was that toxicology needs to more quickly deliver to the public useful, reliable information about chemicals and exposures.

“As scientists, we have to understand that we can no longer take as much time as we used to in reaching decisions,” Bucher said. “People want answers now.”

Michael Devito DeVito said an NTP research report on the cell-based studies of the herbicide glyphosate and its formulations is expected in 2018. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

One program that will speed up the process is the Rapid Evaluation and Assessment of Chemical Toxicity (REACT) program, which targets the potential dangers posed by perfluoroalkyl substances. Known as PFAS, these chemicals are getting significant regulatory and public health interest.

Reporting on REACT, Michael DeVito, Ph.D., acting head of the NTP Laboratory Branch, said that public expectations have changed. “People are becoming impatient with the pace of our traditional hazard assessment studies. Part of that comes with how we communicate and how society has changed,” he said. “We want information, and we want it now.”

Wrangling the data

As environmental health science data sets become larger and more complex, the need for new information resources grows. That is the philosophy behind the recent establishment of the NIEHS Office of Data Science (ODS), as Acting Director Stephanie Holmgren explained.

Stephanie Holmgren Holmgren’s office provides guidance and strategies for developing and using scientific data and knowledge management solutions. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

She noted that data must be FAIR — findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable. Her office has several initiatives in progress to advance FAIR practices at NIEHS, including the NIEHS Data Commons. The data commons is a system for accessing, sharing, and integrating research data and metadata, due to be released early this year.

Board member Norman Barlow, D.V.M., Ph.D., from Johnson and Johnson, said the NIEHS Data Commons is an important step forward for data access and user-friendliness.

Integrating and coordinating data from disparate sources is also a central goal of the Integrated Chemical Environment (ICE), an initiative launched in early 2017 by the NTP Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Methods (NICEATM). ICE is designed to provide high-quality curated data from NICEATM, its partners, and other resources, along with tools to facilitate chemical safety assessment.

All of the data in ICE is also in the Chemical Effects in Biological Systems database (see article), ensuring 100 percent consistency among NTP data systems. Two ICE updates are expected in 2018.

The next BSC meeting is scheduled for June 19-20, 2018.

(Ernie Hood is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)


Kenneth McMartin Kenneth McMartin, Ph.D., from Louisiana State University, chaired the BSC meeting. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Linda Birnbaum During her presentation, Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of NIEHS and NTP, led a standing ovation in recognition of Bucher’s service. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Bucher’s colleagues enjoyed a delicious sheet cake Bucher’s colleagues in NTP, NIEHS, and on the BSC enjoyed a delicious sheet cake prepared in his honor. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Steven Markowitz It was the last board meeting for panel member Steven Markowitz, M.D., Dr.P.H., from City University of New York, who completed his term on the board. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Dori Germolec Dori Germolec, Ph.D., heads the NTP Systems Toxicology Group. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Danilo Tagle Danilo Tagle, Ph.D., from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, described progress in the center’s tissue chip for drug screening program. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Richard Paules Richard Paules, Ph.D., acting chief of the Biomolecular Screening Branch, said the Tox21 Phase 3 program will screen a group of chemicals with high-throughput transcriptomics. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
Mamta Behl NTP toxicologist Mamta Behl, Ph.D., presented results of a workshop on strategies for assessing developmental neurotoxicity, which was held in September 2017. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)
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