Season's Greetings

Dear friends and supporters of the SCAHT,

Two events of significant importance for the SCAHT highlighted our year 2017. The first was the visit by the State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation to the SCAHT, the second the admission of the Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz as a new collaborator institution of the SCAHT. Both events underline the recognition of the SCAHT as a successful research infrastructure in Switzerland and provide additional motivation to our research, education and regulatory toxicology efforts.

As we reflect on another positive and exciting year for the SCAHT we would like to thank you and your colleagues for your encouragement and support throughout the year. We wish you and your families a relaxing and peaceful festive season, and a very happy New Year 2018.

Martin Wilks and the SCAHT team

P. S. Please note that the SCAHT office will be closed from 23rd December 2017 until 2nd January 2018.

FHNW joins the SCAHT network as collaborator

SCAHT is dependent on the support of its partners, the universities of Basel, Geneva and Lausanne, who are represented in the highest decision making body, the SCAHT Foundation Council. As befits a network of research institutions, others may wish to join and for this a process of admission has been established. The School of Life Sciences of the Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz (FHNW) already has collaborations with the SCAHT through the Molecular Toxicology group headed by Prof Laura Suter-Dick, and has expressed an interest to join the SCAHT network. The application was reviewed by the SCAHT Management Board and approved by the Foundation Council at its meeting in November, and the School has now been granted collaborator status, initially for a period of two years. At the end of this period, the Council will review the collaboration and take a final decision with regard to a future status as collaborator or partner.

EFSA BPA protocol endorsed

In December 2017, EFSA’s expert Panel on Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavourings and Processing Aids (CEF) discussed and endorsed a scientific protocol for the upcoming re-evaluation of Bisphenol A (BPA) hazards. The protocol is a detailed plan that defines upfront the scope, methodology and information needs before the assessment starts in 2018. The protocol was developed for the CEF Panel by an EFSA international working group including experts from Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, represented by Rex FitzGerald from the SCAHT. See further information.

Visit by the State Secretary to the SCAHT

On 29th November, the State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation, Dr Mauro Dell’Ambrogio, together with the Head of the Research Unit, Dr Nicole Schaad, and Scientific Adviser Dr Cyrille Girardin, visited the SCAHT at the University of Geneva. The visit was hosted by the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences Geneva-Lausanne and took place in the recently opened Analytical Sciences laboratories at the Centre Médicale Universitaire which is home to a number of SCAHT-supported research groups. 

The guests were welcomed by the university’s Vice-rector for research and SCAHT co-founder, Prof Denis Hochstrasser, together with the Deans of the Faculties for Medicine and Sciences, Profs Henri Bounameaux and Jérome Lacour, the President of the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Prof Jean-Luc Wolfender and SCAHT director Prof Martin Wilks. Participants included Geneva-based SCAHT research group leaders, as well as representatives of the SCAHT Management Board from the University of Basel and the Federal Office of Public Health. The interactive programme featured overview presentations of SCAHT research, educational and regulatory toxicology activities. A highlight of the visit was a tour of some of the state-of-the-art laboratory facilities to which the SCAHT has access through its collaboration with the university. This was exemplified using the contribution of proteomics and metabolomics to specific research questions which was presented by post-doctoral researchers funded by the SCAHT. The visit was rounded up by intensive discussions of the challenges that the federal offices face in human health risk assessment and management of chemicals, pharmaceuticals and pesticides, and how the SCAHT can help address these today and in the future. The guests appreciated the insight into how the SCAHT network operates, and especially the collaborative and translational nature of the SCAHT projects, bringing together researchers from different universities and disciplines, regulatory toxicologists and scientists from federal offices.

Feature update of the Effectopedia

The Effectopedia tool which is an integrative part of the AOP Knowledge Base allows quantitative depiction of the relationships between molecular initiating events, key events, and the in vivo adverse outcomes within an Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP). In June 2017, Effectopedia was updated to include data templates allowing the use of time-dose responses as well as an aggregation function (additive, synergistic, antagonistic) for key events with more than one input. In December a further update is released with, among other features, a new user-friendly interface which also integrates the quantitative modelling tool (see OECD newsletter).

“Bridging the gap between academic researchers and regulators is the ongoing theme for the decade”

The Swiss Centre for Applied Human Toxicology (SCAHT) will have a major presence at OpenTox EURO 2017 in Basel November 21 - 23. SCAHT Director Martin Wilks will chair Session 1: Defined Approaches towards Regulatory Acceptance, and SCAHT Regulatory Toxicologist Rex FitzGerald will join him on the panel to present Test Guidelines, AOPs and IATA - current and future.

Rex FitzGerald says “Bridging the gap between academic researchers and regulators is the ongoing theme for the decade. OpenTox EURO is the place to see what regulators need as well as what scientists are doing. It is a great opportunity to define regulatory acceptance of different kinds of data.” Read more.

2-day SCAHT Research Retreat was well received

On August 28th and 29th the annual SCAHT Research Meeting was held in Montezillon (Neuchâtel). The event gathered researchers from all institutions participating in the SCAHT, as well as representatives from the Swiss regulatory authorities, for scientific discussions on the status and development of the research activities within the SCAHT. Professor Nicole Probst-Hensch from SwissTPH in Basel was the guest speaker and provided insights for SCAHT researchers on the use of epidemiological data in toxicology research. The event also provided a forum for in depth discussions on ongoing activities within the Core Projects, strengthening the SCAHT collaborative network.

20th International Congress on In Vitro Toxicology 2018, Berlin (D)

The aim of the conference which will take place on 15 - 18 October in Berlin (D) is to provide an opportunity to update attendees with the latest advances in the field of in vitro toxicology as well as facilitating networking with other delegates working in this area. Abstract submission will be opened in January 2018. For further information see conference website.

Cefic-LRI research grants - Submission deadline is 31 August 2017

The Long-range Research Initiative (LRI) programme of the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) is accepting research grant applications in areas including Toxicokinetics mammalian modelling (ECO44), Assessment of inhalation and dermal exposure in industrial/professional use (B20), Development of omics data analysis (C4), Understanding normal adaptation vs pathology and gene expression time dependence (C5), and Omics read-across (C6). Submission deadline is 31 August 2017. For further information see here.

Filling gaps in (eco)toxicity data by OECD QSAR toolbox

This toolbox is a software application intended for use by regulatory authorities, chemical industry and other stakeholders in filling gaps in (eco)toxicity data needed for assessing the hazards of chemicals. Version 4.0 was released in June 2017. New features:

  •  Automated and standardised workflows for skin sensitisation and short-term toxicity to fish,
  • Improved customisable reports,
  • Modernised and renewed IT system,
  • Expansion of databases and the introduction of the reliability score for alerts and databases,
  • Enhanced ADME (kinetics) information and improved presentation.