SCAHT Newsletter 1/2016

Highlight: Systems Toxicology Conference 2016 in Les Diablerets

SCAHT, in collaboration with the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), organised a three-day meeting on Systems Toxicology in Les Diablerets (Switzerland) on 27 - 29 January 2016 ( The meeting explored current and likely future specific applications of systems toxicology approaches in chemical risk evaluation. Building on the integration of in vitro and in vivo data with computational modeling, Systems Toxicology reflects a paradigm shift from empirical endpoints to modes of action and adverse outcome pathways. The meeting networked 80 participants from academia, industry and regulatory authorities, and included plenary lectures, poster sessions and interactive panel discussions. Based on the meeting, a position paper on the path forward for Systems Toxicology and selected application is planned.

Module 7 of CAS course on "Advancing Regulatory Toxicology in the 21st Century”

The final CAS (Certificate of Advanced Studies) teaching on the Regulatory Sciences programme will take place at the University of Basel from 13 - 17 June 2016. The module is designed to complement previous modules on the advanced study programme, or can be taken as a stand-alone teaching week. Further details can be found on the attached flyer. Please register on the following link.

Congratulations to CAS graduate

SCAHT would like to congratulate Helené Kettiger who successfully achieved sufficient credit points to be awarded a Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) in Regulatory Sciences. Helené attended four of the CAS module teaching weeks and then submitted a special project all of which contributed to her being awarded the CAS.

Research in SCAHT: Perspectives for integrating human and environmental exposure assessments

As part of the EU-funded FP7 HEROIC Project (Health and Environmental Risks: Organization, Integration and Cross-fertilization of Scientific Knowledge, Grant Agreement no. 282896), which was coordinated by SCAHT, Nicolas Roth, scientific collaborator of the SCAHT, jointly with researchers at Electricité de France (EDF) and the French National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks (INERIS), explored new opportunities to better harmonise and extrapolate exposure assessment data, models and methods between Human Health and Environmental Risk Assessments. The paper identifies perspectives and recommendations to support the further development and promotion of the concept of integrated risk assessment and its potential application in the regulatory decision-making process for chemicals at EU level. Further information.

SCAHT Newsletter 04/2015

Season's greetings

Dear colleagues and friends of the SCAHT,
The sixth year of our centre is almost complete. A year with many challenges and achievements including the first financial audit of the foundation accounts, a process audit by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation and, not least, the submission for our application for the next financing period to the Swiss Confederation. While these activities are necessary to demonstrate good governance of our centre and set us up for the future, it is our contribution to education, research and regulatory projects in toxicology and risk assessment which add value and support public health in Switzerland and abroad. This newsletter once again highlights some recent examples of our activities. 

We wish you and your family a wonderful festive season with time for tranquility and reflection and a very happy and healthy New Year 2016!
               Martin Wilks and the SCAHT team

SCAHT participation in award-winning 3R-research activities 

Andreas Natsch and his colleague Roger Emter, Givaudan, Switzerland, have been awarded the prestigious Lush Prize 2015 for the development of the ‘KeratinoSens’ non-animal skin sensitisation test method (further information). Markus Hofmann, FOPH and Lothar Aicher, SCAHT have supported the development of the corresponding OECD test guideline 442D: In Vitro Skin Sensitisation (ARE-Nrf2 Luciferase Test Method). The main Lush Prize went to the OECD’s Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP) programme, for its animal-free testing activities. Florianne Tschudi-Monnet and Rex FitzGerald of the SCAHT are actively contributing to the development of OECD AOPs.

Successful graduates of CAS programme in Regulatory Sciences

SCAHT has successfully staged Module 6, Modelling Approaches in Chemical Risk Assessment, of the Certificate in Advanced Studies (CAS) in Regulatory Sciences. The module was attended by participants from a range of industries from various parts of the world and from the Swiss authorities. SCAHT would like to congratulate all the participants who attended this module and in particular Yann Cullum, Urs Naef, Astrid Günther and Cecylia Faltis who successfully achieved sufficient credit points to be awarded the Certificate of Advanced Studies in Regulatory Sciences.

SCAHT presentation at the 8th ChloroNet symposium

Lothar Aicher of the SCAHT regulatory toxicology group gave a presentation on the risk assessment of vinyl chloride at the 8. ChloroNet symposium held in Solothurn on 26. November 2015. ChloroNet is a joint project of the FOEN (Federal Office for the Environment) and the WWEA ZH (Zürich cantonal office of Waste, Water, Energy and Air). It is targeted to experts from government, law enforcement, consulting, industry and academia, dealing with remediation and monitoring of sites contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons.

Development of neuroinflammation-neurodegeneration AOP

SCAHT researcher Florianne Tschudi-Monnet was invited by the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) in Parma as a hearing expert for the development of two Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs) (further information) on the involvement of pesticides (rotenone and paraquat) in the etiology of Parkinson’s disease. The aim was to define the role of neuroinflammation in the neurodegenerative process. The committee unanimously agreed on considering neuroinflammation as a key event, and not just as a modulator, in the neurodegenerative process. In addition, it was also recognized that neuroinflammation can be triggered in absence of cell death, and that it plays an early and active role in the neurodegenerative process.

Research in SCAHT: Brain doping among school students

In a study co-funded by the SCAHT, Prof. Matthias Liechti and Dr. Evangelia Liakoni collaborated with the Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction (PD Dr. Michael Schaub, Dr. Larissa Maier) to assess the use of prescription drugs and recreational substances for cognitive enhancement among Swiss school students in the Canton of Zurich (further information). 13.3% of the students reported the use of prescription drugs (9.2%) and/or recreational drugs including alcohol (6.2%) explicitly for cognitive enhancement at least once in their lives. The use of substances for cognitive enhancement (to stay awake or improve concentration) was more prevalent among students who reported higher levels of stress or performance pressure and students with psychiatric disorders. Importantly, prevalence rates were similar to those previously reported by Swiss university students, indicating that brain doping already occurs before starting third-level education.

SCAHT Newsletter 03/2015

SCAHT presented at the 15th Annual AgChem Forum in Barcelona

The 15th AgChem Forum conference 2015 which took place in Barcelona on 23 and 24 September 2015  is aimed at the agrichemical industry and regulators and was attended by 370 senior level attendees from 230+ companies, and 18 European Member State Authorities. Discussions focused on the development and implementation of new guidance documents and testing methods for both human and environmental safety. Lothar Aicher, member of the SCAHT regulatory toxicology group, was invited to give a presentation on the use of -omics technologies within the framework of regulatory human health risk assessment.

European 3R congress

EUSAAT, the European Society for Alternatives to Animal Testing, held its annual conference in Linz, 20 - 23 September 2015 (see congress website). Topics included new technologies and new approaches including AOP in areas such as cosmetic testing and nanosafety. Switzerland was well represented by industry, NGO and academic researchers (BASF Schweiz, Biognosys, CSEM, DSM, Epithelix, Givaudan, InSphero, Nestlé, Novartis, OncoTheis, Philip Morris; Animalfree Research, Bern; EAWAG, EMPA, ETH, and Universities of Fribourg, Bern, Geneva and Basel / SCAHT).

Profs. Alex Odermatt and Serge Nef nominated as experts for external review of OECD AOPs

The OECD internal working group on AOPs (EAGMST) has approved the release of 8 AOPs for external review. For each AOP an OECD expert group with scientific expertise in the hazard area covered by a given AOP was built. Two SCAHT researchers have been nominated as external experts. Prof. Alex Odermatt, University of Basel, is reviewing the AOP on androgen receptor agonism leading to reproductive dysfunction and Prof. Serge Nef, University of Geneva, is evaluating the AOP on PPARα activation leading to impaired male fertility upon utero exposure. Further information.

AOP contributions

The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is offering up to three cash awards (totaling €7,000) to new contributors who add to existing entries in the AOP Wiki using available data. Contributions added to the AOP Wiki between 15 September 2015 and 15 March 2016 will be judged by the OECD AOP work group (EAGMST). Further information.

Research in SCAHT: Prenatal exposure to DEHP affects spermatogenesis and sperm DNA methylation in a strain-dependent manner

In a study funded by the SCAHT and the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (BAG), Dr Ariane Giacobino and a team of researchers from Geneva University and University Hospital observed that prenatal exposure to di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) in two mouse strains significantly decreased spermatogenesis in one strain and not in the other. Treatment also strain-dependently affected genome wide sperm DNA methylation in promoters of large sets of genes putatively involved in both sperm chemotaxis and post-transcriptional regulatory mechanisms. These results show that genetic background plays a role in the epigenetic changes linked to specific environmental exposures. Link to publication.