Lush Prize at EUROTOX 2019
Lush Prize was at EUROTOX 2019 last week, the annual congress for the Federation of European Societies of Toxicology, held over four agenda-packed days between 8-11 September in Helsinki, Finland.
The theme of this year’s congress was ‘Toxicology– Science Providing Solutions’. To align with this theme, Lush Prize prepared a short abstract for inclusion in the official congress programme, as well as a poster, to promote the Prize, both with the title ‘Advancing human relevant solutions in toxicity testing and biomedical research – The Lush Prize in 2020 and beyond’. We were able to display a physical poster all day on Monday, as well as an e-poster available to view on digital terminals throughout the congress. View or download a copy here.
The conference opened on Sunday 8 September, with sessions on a variety of topics including development and evaluation of AOPs; mechanistic tools for risk assessment; real world assessment to fill data gaps (including a talk on QSARs by Mark Cronin of 2013 Lush Science Prize winning Liverpool John Moores University); and evidence-based toxicology. Each session included 8-10 talks throughout the day. Many of the sessions formed part of the EUROTOX Continuing Education Courses (CEC) on a variety of topics.
Monday 9 saw topics including the gut microbiome. The gut is attracting more toxicology research as it is recognised as key to health and the metabolism of drugs and other chemicals. The session also included how the gut function and structure differs between humans and animals and so raises key questions over the relevance of animal ‘models’ to humans.
There were also further sessions on a now widely recognised area, the use of mechanistic data for risk assessment, supported by the EU ToxRisk project and including a talk by former Lush Prize winner Dr. Marcel Leist, as well as sessions on new in-vitromethods, PBPK and AOPs, for example in modelling Parkinson’s disease.
Under a session theme of ‘Speeding up hazard assessment of nanomaterials’, former Lush Prize winner Professor Roland Grafstrom of the Karolinska Insitute gave a talk on ‘Systems Toxicology to support development of adverse outcome pathways’. Frequent use was made of NAMs (New Approach Methodologies) across many sessions.
Other themes on day 2 included critical topics such as foetal and reproductive toxicity, drug induced liver injury (DILI) and the ‘exposome’ – referring to environmental exposure to substances in health and disease.
A very positive final session was held late afternoon/evening by the specialty group In2-Tox SS, hosted by Matthieu Vinken and Helena Kandarova (ESTIV) about raising the visibility of in-vitro and in silico approaches on the EUROTOX agenda, for which there is a lot of support. The group presented four case studies including PBPK and new methods in endocrine disruption, citing the differences between humans and animals (‘we are not rats’) and that change is needed.
Enthusiastic support from the audience came with suggestions of other freely available, open source data tools and algorithms being worked on at the moment and that exciting collaborations could be set up to make this project very successful.
During this session there were many useful comments from the audience, including the following:
- A suggestion that all key regulatory agencies should be asked the following question ‘What are the problems you’re having and where can we address them with in-vitro, in-silico and other NAMs?’
- Another audience member from industry explained how he has “spent years developing mechanistic risk assessment data, but ECHA do not see it favourably, so what is the point of producing it if it’s not going to be used?” This comment was applauded by the audience!
Closing comments by EUROTOX confirmed support for this session and to raise the profile further of in-vitro and in-silico technologieson its agenda.
Welcome session topics on Day 3 included the challenges of non-animal approaches in food safety, with talks on the EPA* ToxCast database and how it provides useful data for read across and risk assessment. Other talks covered the use of PBPK modelling to successfully extrapolate to human doses. Like many of the sessions that focus on non-animal methods, the attendance for this was well over capacity and a larger venue was required, showing the increasing enthusiasm and support for NAMs at EUROTOX.
One talk emphasised how 45,000 animals are still used just for food safety testing in Europe annually; just one example is the 90-day rat test, incredibly still required for food flavourings in some cases. Yet no actual animal test is actually stated as a requirement in the General Food Safety Regulation(GFSR), only that ‘safety must be demonstrated’.
A very interesting panel session was held at the end of the talks, which again raised two key obstacles – reluctance in regulatory acceptance of NAMs – especially mechanistic data – and the validation of new methods being too slow. It was also explained how ECVAM are looking into the validation process, but flexibility is also required from regulators and other stakeholders to make this happen. Other sessions covered themes including knowledge-based computational toxicology, biomonitoring and endocrine disruption.
(* On Tuesday 10 September also came the important announcement that the EPA intends to phase out animal tests. Please see the PCRM website here).
The final day of EUROTOX included another important main session entitled ‘Non-animal approaches in different industries – one size fits all?’ with talks from key industry members BASF, DSM and Bayer, as well as Joao Barroso from the EC JRC.
EUROTOX states that a main driver for this session was a need to share approaches across the scientific and regulatory communities to move forward. A panel discussion at the end of the session aimed to answer the question ‘What can be leveraged across sectors and what not?’ Key points made by the panel included that regulators really need to understand the data they are receiving for a greater chance of success. Also, how some industry members have turned to in-vitro for better predictivity than animal tests.
Other sessions on the final day included thought provoking topics such as ‘Toxic epidemics – why should we still be worried in 2019?’, as well as sessions on ongoing research into optimising methods in the well established area of skin sensitisation.
EUROTOX remains a congress that devotes much resource to conventional methods using animals. The main sponsors and exhibitors include all well known animal testing organisations, suppliers and users of animals. Some sessions are devoted to talks on, for example, dog or rabbit tests. However, it was encouraging to see what seems to be an increasing amount of enthusiasm and time given to a full range of more human-relevant approaches. Given that this is the main annual toxicology conference in Europe, there is no doubt that many see NAMs (New Approach Methodologies) as the way forward, for scientific and/or ethical reasons.
More information can be found in the detailed EUROTOX 2019 programme, including our poster and abstract.
Click here to download or view a copy of the Lush Prize poster presentation.
20 September 2019