Evidence-based toxicology

Evidence-based toxicology aims to transparently, consistently, and objectively assess available scientific evidence in toxicology. For example, systematic reviews (SRs) are a structured process to assess existing evidence relating to a specific research question. One indispensable part of SRs is to apply pre-defined quality criteria in order to appraise the overall strength of evidence. We have been contributing to efforts trying to apply SR methodology and quality assessment criteria to toxicological and environmental health evidence related to a given health hazard or chemical exposure risk. As part of the WHO Chemical Risk Assessment Network’s initiative on the use of systematic reviews we are contributing to webinars, scientific symposia and a publication to promote evidence-based methods in toxicology.

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Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP) framework

21st century toxicology is moving from empirical animal endpoints to evidence-based toxicity pathways. An AOP is a simplified structured representation of sequential causally-related key events (KE) linking a stressor-induced molecular initiating event (MIE) to an adverse outcome (AO). Shared key events generate AOP networks which can represent conservation and divergence of toxicological responses across taxa, life stages, etc. The AOP KnowledgeBase/AOP Wiki (AOPwiki.org; OECD with US EPA, EU JRC and others) is a data repository, which is critical for sharing and updating KEs and key event relationships (KER) as living documents. The AOP framework has many potential uses, including establishing the relevance of in vitro and in silico data for human and environmental hazard profiling and risk assessment.

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Improving human health risk assessment

Group members participate in a number of initiatives aimed at improving the ability of risk assessors to predict health impacts of chemicals. For example, the International STakeholder NETwork (ISTNET) is a collaboration of regulators, academic researchers and industry scientists to develop guidance on how alternative (non-animal) test methods can be used in regulatory risk assessments for developmental neurotoxicity. Conclusions from a number of workshops have been published in the peer-reviewed literature (e. g. Bal-Price et al 2015 & 2018). The Health and Environmental Sciences Institute (HESI)’s “Risk assessment in the 21st century” (Risk21) project aims to provide a harmonised approach to evaluating chemicals using risk- rather than hazard-based methods. We have been contributing in particular to the work stream on cumulative assessment, i.e. risk assessment of chemical mixtures (e. g. Solomon et al 2016, Moretto et al 2017).

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EU-funded projects

We have been consortium members or partners in a number of EU-funded programmes (7th Framework Programme, Horizon 2020 and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network).