April 2015

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Feature: Report on the SOT Satellite Meeting, “Updates on Activities Related to 21st Century Toxicology and Evidence-based Toxicology”

At the start of this year’s SOT satellite meeting, “Updates on Activities Related to 21st Century Toxicology and Evidence-based Toxicology” (co-sponsored by the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing [CAAT], the Human Toxicology Project Consortium [HTPC] and the Evidence-based Toxicology Collaboration [EBTC]), co-moderator Thomas Hartung noted that the annual gathering began in 2009 with 12 people in attendance.  This year, at least 80 people attended – an impressive crowd for a meeting that takes place in the final hours of the week-long Society of Toxicology convention. The annual meeting features updates on US and EU programs and projects dedicated to advancing the toxicity-testing paradigm outlined in the NRC’s 2007 report, Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy.

Richard Paules (US National Toxicology Program) started the presentations with a report on progress in the interagency Tox21 program. The program has moved into Phase III, during which they will be increasing the use of computer models for in vitro to in vivo extrapolation, adding new cell lines, expanding the pathway coverage and human relevance of assays, and developing a high-throughput (HT) transcriptomics platform.

Rusty Thomas (US Environmental Protection Agency) then described a number of initiatives underway in the ToxCast program, including research to develop the metabolic competence of existing assays, developing new assays for priority targets such as the thyroid, and exploring the use of organotypic cell cultures. ToxCast is also expanding its read-across program (and recently hired AltTox Editorial Board member Grace Patlewicz to spearhead that effort).

David Dix (US Environmental Protection Agency) gave an overview of the progress in the EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP), noting that improved technologies are greatly accelerating the project. The agency is concentrating on building user confidence in its screening battery and expanding the use of computational modeling. (Read an introduction to the EDSP in this two-part In the Spotlight article.)

Melvin Andersen (Hamner Institutes), a co-author of the NRC’s 2007 report, noted that considerable technical and scientific progress has been accomplished in the 8 years since publication of the NRC’s recommendations. Several key pathways have been well-described, and others are under construction. The new challenge is to determine how to communicate this progress to the public, and build their confidence in these methods.

Mark Cronin (Liverpool John Moores University) then provided an overview and update on the six components of the EU’s SEURAT-1 program. (Read more about the SEURAT-1 program in this New Perspective article.) A number of useful tools are coming out of this project, but the key outputs are proof-of-concept case studies. Level 1 studies are designed to demonstrate methods for consolidating existing knowledge to describe key adverse outcome pathways (AOPs). Level 2 studies demonstrate the integration of in vitro and in silico tools to generate predictive models. Level 3 studies, to be finalized later this year, will demonstrate how these models and knowledge bases can be used in quantitative and read-across-based risk assessment and decision-making.

Thomas Hartung reported on the activities of CAAT. Among many initiatives, CAAT is developing a read-across program that aims to facilitate 2018 REACH registrations. CAAT has also been coordinating a series of workshops in Europe and the US to advance “green toxicology” – using in silico tools to design safer chemicals. Filling in for scheduled presenter Marty Stephens, Hartung also described the work of the EBTC, which has been developing and promoting the methods and uses of systematic review in toxicology. Hartung noted that evidence-based toxicology stands to advance twenty-first century toxicology in several ways, including providing a means of assessing the quality of legacy data and new assays, providing guidance on integrating data sources, and ultimately using this information to facilitate validation procedures.

Catherine Willett updated the group on HTPC activities. Willett explained that the HTPC focuses its efforts on three areas: contributing to the advance of relevant science by sponsoring workshops and seminars, lobbying in the US and EU to increase funding for key government initiatives, and developing communication strategies to encourage regulatory and public acceptance of the NRC’s testing strategy. In the last year, the group has especially concentrated on this third area, developing an informative graphic and a series of videos that will be posted on the group’s website later this year. She noted that the HTPC also co-sponsored a seminar at SOT this year – “AOPs 201,” which covered the development and use of AOPs for regulatory purposes. Videos from the seminar will be shared on the group’s website.

The meeting closed with its traditional “open mic” segment – inviting short presentations or discussion questions from those in attendance. The update meeting will convene again at the end of next year’s SOT convention in New Orleans.

(Registered participants of the meeting will be able to access presentation slides on the EBTC website.)
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