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ONTOX consortium during the first ONTOX annual meeting in Brussels on 3-4 May 2022

ONTOX: towards safer and effective risk assessment of chemicals without animal testing

12. 5. 2022 | 864 visits

Horizon 2020 ONTOX project annual meeting (3-4 May 2022, Brussels-Belgium) summarized the first-year work since its launch on 1 May 2021. The project coordinator and scientific advisory board conveyed satisfaction with the initial results, which will serve as a solid basis for establishing new approach methodologies for testing chemicals. Centre of Experimental Medicine SAS is part of the ONTOX on behalf of the Slovak Republic.

ONTOX aims to develop cutting-edge technologies and approaches that significantly reduce and even replace the need for testing substances in animals. The project will achieve its goals through a novel approach that predicts toxic effects of chemicals in the liver, kidneys and developing brain. Within ONTOX, a major focus is put on pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, biocides and food. A unique feature of ONTOX is the use of artificial intelligence for collecting big data and making sense of them in view of hazard prediction.

"Several systematic review exercises have been performed to collect data to populate the ontologies. Adverse outcome pathways networks focused on selected adversities in the liver, the kidneys and the developing brain have been developed. Chemicals have been selected to set up in vitro test batteries to predict the toxic effects of chemicals in the liver, the kidneys and the developing brain. A group of stakeholders with industrial and regulatory background has been established, and collaboration with two other European projects in the ASPIS cluster has been set up," concludes Prof. Mathieu Vinken, ONTOX coordinator (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), on the ONTOX first year's effort.

"ONTOX has made significant progress in its first year. This is all the more impressive for launching a project without the possibility of face-to-face meetings. Work package management and coordination is exceptional, with very exciting activities across the board. Early outputs, including data management tooling and physiological maps, show progress towards ONTOX's strategic goals. We look forward to year 2, especially to seeing how the work towards physiologically-grounded, AI-supported, non-animal toxicity test methods will keep developing," said Dr. Paul Whaley (Lancaster University), on behalf of the ONTOX scientific advisory board, whose role is to scrutinize if the project is heading towards the desired outcomes.

Centre of Experimental Medicine SAS is appointed as the ONTOX's Communication work package and deputy coordinator for the non-scientific tasks (communication, dissemination, exploitation and data management). It is responsible for the overall communication strategy and creation of the various communication materials to reach out to relevant stakeholders from research, regulatory authorities and industry. CEM SAS also brings the ONTOX vision closer to the general public.

The primary motivation to conceive ONTOX was the societal, ethical and economic need for animal-free methods to test the safety of chemicals, relying on state-of-the-art methodology and cutting-edge scientific knowledge. The following four years will show the endeavor of this interdisciplinary consortium to stay on track towards the vision for safer human-relevant chemical risk assessment without animal testing.

About ONTOX:

Ontology-driven and artificial intelligence-based repeated dose toxicity testing of chemicals for next-generation risk assessment (ONTOX) is a project funded by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 (H2020) research and innovation program under Grant Agreement No. 963845. The vision of the ONTOX is to provide a functional and sustainable solution for advancing human risk assessment of chemicals without the use of animals in line with the principles of 21stcentury toxicity testing and next-generation risk assessment. ONTOX is part of the ASPIS cluster, the collaboration of  three EU-funded H2020 projects (ONTOX, PrecisionTox and RISK-HUNT3R) that represents Europe's €60M effort towards the sustainable, animal-free and reliable chemical risk assessment of tomorrow.


About Centre of Experimental Medicine SAS:

The Centre of Experimental Medicine (CEM) of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAS) was established on 1 January 2018 by merging of the Institute of Experimental Pharmacology and Toxicology, the Institute of Normal and Pathological Physiology and the Institute of Heart Research into one Centre. CEM is focused on the integrated research into the causes, mechanisms of development and possibilities of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of societally important diseases with the emphasis on diseases of the cardiovascular and the nervous systems, metabolic disorders, mental disorders and mental health problems as well as diseases originating in the prenatal and early postnatal developmental periods. The research in CEM is carried out on in silico, in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo models with the aim to transfer the acquired knowledge to clinical practice. An important part is the evaluation of the effects of bioactive natural substances, their derivatives and original synthetic substances with pharmacotherapeutic potential, animal models of human diseases as well as the study of side-effects of toxic and chemical agents and radiation.


Author: Lucia Milec, Centre of Experimental Medicine SAS, Institute of Experimental Pharmacology & Toxicology

Photo: CEM SAS

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