The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences announces the establishment of a pre-competitive, multi-organization partnership designed to advance an integrated systems biology approach to toxicity testing research.

Using several toxicity pathway case studies with the explicit goal of speeding implementation of recommendations from the National Research Council report Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy, the partnership will develop human cell-based assays that map and model key cell signaling pathways in order to evaluate dose response. These assays, once validated with prototype chemicals, should enable toxicity testing and risk assessments based solely on in vitro test results, without progressing to toxicity studies in intact animals.

These in vitro-based toxicity testing schemes will speed testing of both important compounds in commerce and new compounds coming into use. More rapid testing will also help assess the backlog of thousands of chemicals for which there is very limited toxicity test data. As these test technologies mature, they could also provide a means to speed drug discovery and drug development by providing assessments of safety far earlier in the drug development process.

The Hamner and Brown University will conduct the research. Partners sponsoring the research include Agilent Technologies Inc., Illumina, Dow Chemical, Dow Corning Corporation, ExxonMobil, Unilever, and CropLife America member companies. The Long-Range Research Initiative of the American Chemistry Council supported earlier stages of this research.
Research outcomes from this initiative dovetail with the other efforts currently underway, including the Tox-21 Consortium (Tox21C), a collaborative research effort between the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Food and Drug Administration. The project also leverages the NIH-funded consortium effort to map estrogenic pathways in human breast cancer cells, led by Dr. Thomas Hartung at The Johns Hopkins University.

A report of a recent review of The Hamner program “Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: Toxicity Pathways and Network Biology” is available at and provides a synopsis of the first prototype pathways serving as examples of this integrated systems biology approach to toxicity testing.

Release Date: December 5, 2012
Source: The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences