Thursday, 13 January 2011

Predicting toxicity of drugs

CIT, the European non-clinical CRO, today announced it will be joining with other partners in a five-year joint research and development project to address the unmet need for test methods for predicting toxicity of drugs, chemicals and cosmetic ingredients. The project is called ScreenTox (Stem Cells for Relevant, Efficient, Extended & Normalised Toxicology). The partners will receive funding within the Health Programme of the European Commission's 7th RTD Framework Programme.

CIT is one of 14 industrial and academic partners in the project, which is coordinated by Inserm, the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research. The “ScreenTox” project will be funded as part of a research cluster with an overall budget of EUR 50 million. This cluster covers seven projects and represents a unique joint effort from the European Commission and the European Cosmetic Association (COLIPA).

In the development of products for use by humans, it is vital to identify compounds with toxic properties at an early stage of their development, in order to avoid spending time and resources on unsuitable and potentially unsafe candidate products. Human pluripotent stem cells offer an unparalleled opportunity to create a wide variety of human cell-based test systems because these cells may be expanded indefinitely and triggered to differentiate into any cell type. The “ScreenTox” project aims at making use of these two attributes in order to optimize current processes and develop novel methods to achieve functional differentiation of human-based target cells in vitro.

The project recognizes a major paradigm shift in predictive toxicology that pluripotent stem cells will permit in the coming years. “The evaluation of toxicants calls for new models that will allow assessing toxicity pathway responses in vitro,” said Marc Peschanski, a leading scientist in the field of toxicity and coordinator of the network. “Derivatives of pluripotent stem cell lines are likely to be the best candidates to implement this new strategy, as these most relevant and reliable model systems can also be robust and scalable in order to meet the challenges of industrial-scale screens.”

"ScreenTox has the potential to generate a huge leap forward in toxicity testing as it combines three key factors: a wide range of international scientific expertise and industry know-how as well as substantial financial investment,” said Roy Forster, CIT's scientific director. “We believe that ScreenTox will demonstrate advantages in using stem cells to assess how safe new products will be for use on humans, and in refining, reducing or even replacing the use of animals for testing.”