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Joint Research Centre plays key role in Europe's largest ever research consortium on alternative methods

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Nov 07, 2011
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SEURAT-1 presents its first Annual Report

Before cosmetic products and ingredients are launched on the European market, their safety for human health needs to be tested. The development of non-animal alternative testing methods represents a considerable scientific challenge, especially as regards the effects of products and ingredients used repeatedly over longer periods ('repeated dose effects'). 

This challenge is now been tackled by “SEURAT-1”, a research initiative involving nearly 100 scientists from over 70 European organizations, which just delivered its Annual Report 2011 (first out of six): "Towards the replacement of in vivo repeated dose systemic toxicity testing" (October 2011). 

Within the SEURAT-1 cluster, the European Commission Joint Research Centre, Institute of Health and Consumer Protection (JRC-IHCP) is heavily involved in three of the five complementary research projects, contributing to advancing science in a number of key areas, including: development and standardisation of reliable stem cell differentiation protocols; computational prediction tools for determining the fate of a chemical within the body after exposure, and for modelling the reaction of cells to a toxic insult; discovery of new biomarkers at the molecular and cellular level for detecting early toxicological events; high throughput robotic testing to generate high quality datasets using novel in vitro assays; selection of reference chemicals with known toxicological profiles for use in test system development and evaluation; and extension of TTC (Thresholds of Toxicological Concern) safety assessment frameworks to include cosmetic ingredients. 

The JRC-IHCP is also at the centre of the coordination efforts of the entire cluster, exploiting its considerable experience in the alternatives area to help formulate and implement the SEURAT-1 research strategy, and to facilitate synergies between projects and partners to maximise the impact of collective effort. "My Institute is fully committed to this unique public-private partnership", says Elke Anklam, Director of JRC-IHCP, "and we have a valuable contribution to make, considering our extensive research programme in hazard and risk assessment methodology, including the activities of ECVAM – the European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL) for Alternatives Methods to Animal Testing".                     

Having kicked off on 1 January 2011, with a total budget of EUR 50 million, SEURAT-1 is co-financed by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD), within the HEALTH theme of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), and the European Cosmetics Association (Colipa). The JRC-IHCP is also committing significant resources through its own institutional funding and work programme. The initiative will run for five years and represents a first step towards achieving the vision of SEURAT ('Safety Evaluation Ultimately Replacing Animal Testing'), which pushes for a fundamental change in the way we assess the safety of chemicals. 

This first Report outlines the research strategy and detailed activities of the projects, and puts them in context of both EU regulation (‘Cosmetics Directive’, Regulations on ‘Classification, Labelling and Packaging’ and REACH - ‘Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals’), and related international research activities.

Together, the six annual SEURAT-1 reports (2011-2016) will pave the way with proof-of-concept studies to concretely demonstrating how science can shift the paradigm in safety assessment, ensuring the highest protection for the consumer while eliminating our reliance on animal testing. Successful completion of SEURAT-1 will lay the foundation for follow-on efforts in SEURAT-2 that will broaden the toxicological, chemical, and regulatory domains addressed. "It's all about achieving a critical mass of effort, based around the integration of the right scientific disciplines", says Maurice Whelan, head of the Systems Toxicology Unit which leads the Institutes contribution, "and this consortium has that". 

The Report and the SEURAT-1 cluster will be presented by Maurice Whelan at the AXLR8 Roundtable on 08.11.11 (www.axlr8.eu), at the Ecopa Conference on the 11.11.11 and at the annual EPAA Conference on 09.11.11, where IHCP Director Elke Anklam will deliver the closing address.

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