F.D.A. joins Tox21 partnership

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration has joined the federal government’s Tox21 collaboration, which currently includes the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences National Toxicology Program (N.T.P.) and the National Institute of Health Chemical Genomics Center (N.C.G.C.). The Tox21 effort merges federal resources to develop ways to more effectively predict how chemicals will affect human health and the environment.

“This collaboration is revolutionizing the current approach to chemical risk assessment by sharing expertise, capabilities and chemical information, which will lead to both a faster and deeper understanding of chemical hazards,” said Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for the E.P.A.’s Office of Research and Development. “Through the Tox21 collaboration, 2,000 chemicals have already been screened against dozens of biological targets and we are working to increase the number of chemicals to 10,000 by the end of the year.”

The F.D.A. will collaborate with other Tox21 members to prioritize chemicals that need more extensive toxicological evaluation and develop models that can better predict human response to chemicals. The E.P.A. contributes to Tox21 through the ToxCast program and by providing chemicals and additional automated tests to the N.C.G.C. ToxCast currently includes 500 chemical screening tests that have assessed more than 300 environmental chemicals.

“Using the best science to protect human health and the environment is the ultimate goal of this collaboration,” said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the N.T.P. “The addition of F.D.A. to this effort allows biomedical researchers and regulatory scientists to work together side by side to more rapidly screen chemicals and find more effective ways to protect the health of the public. The N.T.P. is pleased to bring its toxicology and coordination expertise to bear on making Tox21 a reality.”

A significant part of the Tox21 partnership is the robotic screening and informatics platform at N.C.G.C. that uses automated tests to screen thousands of chemicals a day for toxicological activity in cells.

“Our robots screen in a day what would take one person a year to do by hand, allowing a fundamentally different approach to toxicology that is comprehensive and based on molecular mechanisms,” said Christopher Austin, director of the N.I.H.’s N.C.G.C.

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