Activities and facilities

The European Commission Joint Research Centre, Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (JRC-IHCP) main fields of activity related to new approaches in safety assessment of chemicals

Predictive Toxicology & Informatic systems

We development, assess and apply computational (in silico) methods. For example:

  • Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship (QSAR) models can be used to obtain information on the properties and activities of substances from chemical structure alone, and can thus be used to fill data gaps in the safety assessment of chemicals;
  • Physiologically Based Biokinetic (PBBK) Modelling can be used to extrapolate between in vitro and in vivo exposure conditions, thereby helping to establish the relevance of data generated by in vitro toxicity tests.

We also develop and maintain a number of chemical databases and information systems. These are used to manage, query and evaluate data obtained from our own scientific projects as well as to disseminate data and information to researchers, the general public and all stakeholders with an interest in the safe use of chemicals. Furthermore, we create data reporting templates to be used by a global community when reporting their findings (especially derived from alternative methods) to regulatory authorities. Read more...

HCI system (High Content Imaging) with operator

The High Throughput Screening (HTS) facility

It consists of two comprehensive robotic platforms supported by ample cell culturing and compound management laboratories. The robotic platform is a flexible, modular, specialised system for the full automation of a wide variety of cell-based and biochemical assays. The core component of the platform is a high throughput liquid handler capable of accurate and repeatable sample preparation, serial dilution and test-plate treatment. Ancillary instrumentation essential in standard HTS assays, such as an optical plate reader, a plate washer and an on-line incubator are accessible by a robotic arm. The flexible and modular design of the platform allows the integration of additional equipment such as an automated imaging microscope for High Content Screening (HCS). Read more...

Cell culturing lab operatorThe compound management activity

This system is designed to fully integrate our testing facility and in particular to support the high demand of prepared, ready-to-test samples needed for automated in-vitro testing. A state-of-the-art drug discovery data management system is also linked to the facility to ensure reliable treatment and traceability of test data. It provides the ability to record comprehensive chemical information together with the associated HTS biological and analytical data, offering consistent and traceable chemical and biological data management and analysis.

The cell culture laboratory

This laboratory ensure the continuous provision of biological samples for automated testing. Its is located in a positive-pressure room fully equipped for preparation and maintenance of cell cultures in a safe and sterile environment. Standard operating procedures are implemented to ensure the continuous production of consistent high-quality biological samples.
Read more on the EURL ECVAM GLP facility.

Areas of activity

Endocrine disruptors

It is important to have effective methods for testing the safety of chemicals in relation to endocrine disruption. The JRC-IHCP provides scientific analytical support to the initiative of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment to improve the assessment criteria of the endocrine disrupting properties of chemicals
Assessing the risks posed by chemicals is a long and complex process. Scientists at the Institute work to devise a combination of computer methods, automated laboratory in vitro test and human bio-monitoring, which would help predict the toxicity of chemicals. In this manner, hazardous substances could be profiled and prioritised for further testing, thereby speeding up the application of the most appropriate regulatory measures. Read more..

See also: a general introduction to Improved Safety Assessment of Chemicals without relying on Animal Testing in JRC-IHCP.

Photos:
a)
HCI system (High Content Imaging) with operator. JRC-IHCP, Assay Technologies and HTS. Copyright EU 2010
b) Cell culturing lab operator.
JRC-IHCP, Assay Technologies and HTS. Copyright EU 2010