SCAHT Newsletter 02/2016

SCAHT director to lead European Association of Poison Control Centres and Clinical Toxicologists

During the recent congress of the European Association of Poison Control Centres and Clinical Toxicologists (EAPCCT) in Madrid, the SCAHT director Prof Martin Wilks was elected President-elect of the association. He will take over as President for the term 2018 - 2020. Founded in 1964 with the specific goal of advancing knowledge and understanding of the diagnosis and treatment of all forms of poisonings, the EAPCCT has over 300 members from 56 countries across the world. It was also announced in Madrid that the next annual congress of the EAPCCT will be held in Basel from 16 - 19 May 2017.

EU critera for Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

On 15 June, after a delay of more than 2 years, the European Commission presented draft scientific criteria to identify endocrine disruptors under pesticides and biocides legislation. Identification requires establishing a causal link between adverse effects on human health and an endocrine mode of action; health effects and mode of action should consider all relevant scientific evidence by robust systematic review, using a weight of evidence-based approach. See EU press release

The European Registered Toxicologist (ERT): current status and prospects for advancement

Over the last few years the EUROTOX sub-committees for registration and education, chaired by Bas Blaauboer, University of Utrecht, and SCAHT director Martin Wilks, respectively, have discussed with representatives of national toxicology societies and registers how to achieve further harmonisation of requirements and processes between national registering bodies as a prerequisite for official recognition of the ERT title as a standard. In order to take account of recent developments in toxicology, an update of the ERT Guidelines has been prepared in a series of workshops and this will be presented to EUROTOX for approval at the next congress in Seville in September. These developments and prospects for the future have been summarised in a commentary in the journal Toxicology Letters which is now available online.

Next MAS in Toxicology programme starts in September 2016

31 August 2016 is the application deadline for the Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in Toxicology programme, starting September 2016. The programme is run by the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Geneva and the University of Lausanne in collaboration with the SCAHT. It is a two year part-time study programme consisting of four day teaching blocks every three weeks over three semesters and requires students to write a Master’s thesis. Successful completion of the course is recognised as providing the theoretical knowledge for professional registration as a toxicologist by EUROTOX. There is a possibility to attend individual modules with free-student status if places are available. For prerequisites and further information click here.

Research in SCAHT: Exploring Omics data from designed experiments

Omics data analysis is challenging; there may be hundreds to thousands of correlated variables, but only a limited number of samples. To address this, the two SCAHT researchers Julien Boccard and Serge Rudaz propose a supervised multiblock algorithm based on the Orthogonal Partial Least Squares (OPLS) framework. They illustrate the utility of the approach with case studies (plant wounding metabolomics and drug-induced hepatotoxicity transcriptomics). Their approach enables easily interpreted outputs; signal variations are easily related to main effects or interaction terms, and biochemical information can be easily extracted from the investigation of loadings related to each significant effect, to select e.g. enriched subsets of metabolites/transcripts, or detect spectral zones of interest. See publication.

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.