Impact

Our research impacts on society by:

  • Developing new approaches for toxicology monitoring to improve environmental risk assessment.
  • Protecting food and energy security by identifying genetic traits that improve crop yields in challenging environments.
  • Development of new technologies for pharmaceutical development, understanding the interplay between drugs and genetics to improve safety profiles.

Case study

An integrative approach to chemical risk assessment

Assessing the degree of exposure to toxic chemicals released by human activity and their impact on the ecosystem is of paramount importance for a sustainable economy. At present, assessment of risk is cumbersome, highly dependent by the availability of in vivo toxicity data and results are characterised by a high degree of uncertainty.

Here we work with industry and stakeholders to develop a new generation of tools to quantitatively and unambiguously predict the risk of chemicals on the environment. We do this by using state of the art systems biology techniques that are designed to “learn” the structure of biological networks that predict the toxicity of chemicals on complex organisms.

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In this system, the physical-chemical features of a given chemical are used in combination with molecular biomarkers representing the response of an organism to exposure to predict the likelihood of an adverse outcome.

With industry we are developing the first prototype of a decision system to perform risk assessment on a class of chemicals representing narcosis, one of the most common classes of toxicants. Ultimately, these tools will revolutionise the way that risk assessment is performed in industry and will allow prediction of low levels of chronic exposure, which is an area that has been largely ignored in the past.