Sometimes we forget that science is about people. And how one conversation can define a solution or take research in a new direction. This was already true in Einstein’s day. Now, with 21st Century science demanding the combination of so many divergent specialties, it is even more important. Bringing together communities and related collaborations would seem the best way to proceed.
In January 2016, Joanna Jaworska, Principal Scientist at P&G, and I were both in the Swiss mountain village of Diablerets attending the Systems Toxicology conference on “Real World Applications and Opportunities”. The conference title would prove prophetic.Dr. Jaworska has built a reputation in the toxicology world for her work at P&G developing an Integrated Testing Strategy (ITS) to identify potential skin sensitizers without the need for animal tests. I had already had the pleasure of meeting Joanna during the initial OpenTox days, when it was an EC-funded project that Douglas Connect led to develop a framework for predictive toxicology with a combination of academic, industry and regulatory partners.
During one of the conference breaks, Joanna and I decided to get some fresh air and, as we walked through the snow, we exchanged information about our recent activities. Joanna updated me on her work at P&G: a lot of time was being lost, she explained, because scientists did not have an integrated solution supporting their testing and assessment work. We agreed an open integrating solution implementation for the industry was needed. Douglas Connect was building on the OpenTox experience to create ToxHQ, a global framework and business ecosystem in safety assessment. We knew that the new application had to be carefully engineered to provide well documented reproducible evidence. After all, regulators can only approve what they understand. ToxHQ provided the ideal model for us to work closely together to define and build what was needed.
As we talked, Joanna and I realized that it was time to team up to create the ITS solution that would help P&G and the whole industry. The outcome of that conversation a year later is an application offering a much better user-experience: results that once took five hours now take around two minutes. A web version allows everyone to evaluate and provide feedback (https://its.douglasconnect.com/).
Since that meeting in the Alps, ToxHQ has developed as a model for close collaboration between industry, regulators and the research community concerned with chemical safety. Together, we define solutions to advance innovative safety assessment methods supported by a range of innovative products and services, including a software platform, a suite of specialized data management and integrated testing applications, and a developing partner network working together on safety assessment application development for industrial and regulatory purposes.
Initiated as a public-private partnership with support from the Swiss and Swedish governments, ToxHQ’s future development will be further driven by the requirements of industry, with strong input from regulatory authorities. This combination ensures the design of applications fit-for-purpose for broad industrial use and that satisfy regulatory thinking on emerging practice and information requirements.With over 100,000 chemicals to evaluate, there is certainly no time to waste.