21st Century Toxicology Research

21st Century Toxicology is a new approach to safety testing which is exciting regulators, toxicologists, campaigners and companies around the world. It has become possible because of advances in biology, genetics, computer science and robotics.

21st-Century Toxicology focusses on human ‘toxicity pathways’, the sequences of molecular changes within the body’s cells that follow exposure to a toxic chemical. As these molecular pathways are elucidated for different groups of chemicals and different toxic effects, computer technology will help identify the key steps that can then be used to design non-animal safety tests.

Many of these new tests will be done robotically, providing more cost-effective chemical assessment and helping to clear the backlog of untested substances.

They offer better relevance to humans (rather than using mice, rats and rabbits), and will explain the underlying causes of toxicity. Unlike animal methods, the new tests will help predict human variability and differential effects on embryos, children and adults. And as the superior scientific basis of the new approach is recognised, outdated animal tests will be replaced.

For more information on this subject see:

The Background Paper for the 2013 Science Prize.

Humane Society International (video)

National Academy of Sciences Introduction (3pp pdf)

Human Toxicology Project Document (2pp pdf)

US National Academy of Sciences (Book 196pp)

Anyone can nominate individuals, research teams or institutions for work conducted on relevant toxicity pathways. Applicants can also nominate themselves. Outstanding research producing an effective non-animal safety test based on an approach other than toxicity pathways, where none existed before, may also be considered.


Nominations for the 2014 Awards are due to open in April 2014.

Prize Partner: Ethical Consumer Research Association

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