ACC’s Long-Range Research Initiative and the Future of Chemical Risk Assessment

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ACC’s Long-Range Research Initiative and the Future of Chemical Risk Assessment

Published: March 2, 2009
Tina Bahadori, Managing Director for the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Long-Range Research Initiative (LRI), is pleased to announce the release of the LRI’s updated guidance document, the LRI Research Strategy 2009-2015.

The research proposed in this strategy is part of the chemical industry’s approach to developing improved methods for determining chemical risks “better, faster, and cheaper.” The goal of the LRI is to modernize approaches to chemical risk assessment. Through the LRI research program, the chemical industry sponsors research into chemical exposures and their potential impacts on human and wildlife populations and the environment.

The ACC, the US chemical industry’s trade association, has been involved in sponsoring product stewardship among its member companies through programs such as the LRI, which was initiated in 1999. The ACC’s LRI is part of a global program under the auspices of the International Council of Chemical Associations.

The LRI Research Strategy 2009-2015 explains that one of the motivations for the LRI program is to avoid situations in which regulators take products off the market (“de-selection”) based on data from new toxicity testing technologies before their meaning or relationship to exposure are adequately understood. Similarly, premature regulatory application could stifle product innovation and international trade. The LRI acknowledges that “risk assessment practices must be modified to accommodate new science and technology.” Therefore, a better understanding of how to interpret data from these new technologies is critical to chemical industry competitiveness and to better science. The LRI research program is designed to support independent, third-party research to achieve the objective of data-driven decision-making.

The strategy proposed by the LRI for improving the prediction of human risk from chemical exposures is based on some of the approaches recommended in two 2007 National Research Council (NRC) reports: Applications of Toxicogenomic Technologies to Predictive Toxicology and Risk Assessment, and Toxicity Testing in the Twenty-first Century: A Vision and a Strategy. These reports provide recommendations to US stakeholders to engage existing and emerging scientific technologies such as genomics, cell-based assays, and computational models to improve the predictive capability of chemical hazard (toxicity testing) and risk assessments.

The current methods for assessing the adverse effects of chemicals in humans are based primarily on animal testing. Animals are imperfect models for predicting human biological effects, so the toxicity results in animals have to be extrapolated to provide predicted human effects. The chemical industry is interested in taking advantage of the wealth of data being generated on the effects of chemicals using new technologies that do not rely on animal testing, such as those described in the NRC reports. However, at the present time the ability to utilize these types of data in determining chemical hazard is limited. The LRI will invest in the “science of interpretation” by supporting studies that attempt to translate hazard data created using these new technologies “into meaningful information that can be used effectively in risk-based decision-making.”

The LRI is funded at just over $9 million in 2009 with a goal to increase its funding to $10-15 million per year, when the state of the economy warrants.
The research areas set forth in the proposed six-year LRI research strategy are:

  • Data interpretation from new technologies – effective interpretation of the health risk implications of data from new toxicity testing technologies so it can be useful to risk-based decision-making
  • Tools for understanding the relevance of environmental exposures – development of innovative tools for characterizing biologically-relevant exposures and their relationship to health risks
  • Risk assessments for susceptible populations – improved risk assessments for susceptible populations (i.e., children) by understanding genetic influences and gene-environment interactions

The LRI Strategic Science Team (SST), a group consisting of member company and external experts, will use the strategy plan to recommend new research topics annually. Archived Requests for Proposals (RfP) address the following funding themes: human exposure; animal biomarkers of exposure; environmental toxicology; reproductive/developmental toxicology in animal models; and risk assessment practices. The most recent RfP, which closed April 7, 2008, funded research for the estimation of human health risks associated with real-world exposure.

The AltTox community’s interest in non-animal toxicity testing is supported by the initiatives of the LRI research program to the extent that the research promotes innovations in toxicity testing and risk assessment that translate into the development, validation, acceptance, and implementation of non-animal test methods. We look forward to any contributions that the LRI can make to this effort.