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JRC-IHCP team wins first Lush science prize for breakthrough in non-animal chemical safety testing

News details
Nov 15, 2012

Awarded to colleagues within the Assay Development and High Throughput Screening Group of the Systems Toxicology Unit for their work on designing a novel in vitro test system for assessing hepatoxicity

A JRC-IHCP team today receives the first Lush Science Prize for their pioneering work on non-animal chemical safety testing. A joint initiative between the global handmade cosmetics company and Ethical Consumer magazine, the prize is designed to reward 'outstanding contributions' to 21st Century Toxicology, and in particular, recent advances in genetics and computer science aimed at improving the prediction of the potential toxicity of a substance without animal testing. 

Prof. Maurice Whelan, who heads the Systems Toxicology Unit and the European Union Reference Laboratory for Alternatives to Animal Testing (EURL ECVAM), expressed his appreciation to receive such international recognition and indicated that the prize money will be used to further work in the area. The prize presented at an award ceremony in London comes with £50.000.

The winning team designed and demonstrated a high-throughput screening system to categorise chemicals based on their potential to cause liver toxicity. Their approach is based on the quantification of multiple biomarkers of effect that are expressed by HepaRG (liver) cells, treated on a robotic platform and analysed using automated microscopy. As today there is no established in-vitro screening strategy to reliably identify potentially hepatotoxic chemicals, this new mode-of-action based approach - especially when supported by metabonomics and transcriptomics data - shows great promise for detecting potential liver toxicants without having to resort to animal testing.

The Lush Price jury found that this research produced some novel key results to solve the puzzle that represents our understanding of the human reaction to chemicals and that the study of liver toxicology, a very important aspect in safety testing, is right in the centre of animal-free safety testing 

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Photo: Winning team member working with high-throughput screening system. Copyright EU 2011.