The European Commission has awarded a $23.3 million grant to for a project involving Indiana University researchers to shape chemical safety regulation without the use of animal testing. IU says it is part of a consortium of European and U.S. organizations called PrecisionTox that received the award.
The university says PrecisionTox, which is short for precision toxicology, aims to “protect human health from the toxic effects of chemicals found in people’s homes, food and the environment.” The project is being led by the University of Birmingham in the U.K.
“We live in a world that relies on chemicals,” said Joseph Shaw, associate dean for research in the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “We cannot just get rid of them, but with sufficient understanding of their effects, we can learn to make better decisions about how we interact with them.”
IU says the research will be performed without mammalian animal testing, and will instead focus on nonsentient organisms such as fruit flies, roundworms, water fleas, and zebrafish and frog embryos.
“IU has been at the center of a large consortium effort, called the Mod Encode project, that uses fruit flies and roundworms to catalog the functions of all components of the genetic code,” said Jason Tennessen from the Department of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences. “The work we are contributing to PrecisionTox builds upon these assets and expands the scope of research by identifying how these organisms are influenced by chemicals.”
According to the university, the small size and fast development of the nonsentient organisms will allow chemical testing to be done quickly. The research is expected to show genetic and metabolic pathways shared with humans.
The research team will use genetics, genomics, metabolomics and the study of evolution to investigate the toxicity of hundreds of chemicals and learn how they disrupt biological processes fundamental to health.
“We are excited to work with U.S. agencies and stakeholders to help make the project relevant to their needs,” Shaw said. “We also hope to use tools developed from this project to directly empower and improve the health of those who suffer the burden of chemical pollution through the IU-led Solve Pollution Network.”
IU says the goal of the studies is to work with governing bodies in Europe and around the world to improve toxic chemical regulations.