A*STAR partnership to find new methods for non-animal lab testing

SINGAPORE - Chemical safety testing on laboratory animals could be overtaken by new identification approaches soon.

Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are partnering to develop new non-animal testing methods, A*STAR announced in a press statement on Monday (Jan 25).

Thousands of chemicals are currently in use, and many are essential to modern life. For example, preservatives protect food from harmful microbial contamination; sunscreen filters protect against skin cancer and washing detergents help to remove dirt and grease.

Chemical safety testing has been performed mainly on laboratory animals, however the method gave rise to several issues; test results did not gurantee safety for humans due to the inter-species difference, the approach was costly and time-consuming, and it was also banned in some parts of the European Union due to ethical concerns.

Singapore is well-positioned to contribute to new approaches to chemical safety prediction,  A*STAR added.

Scientists from A*STAR's Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN), Bioinformatics Institute (BII), and Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN), and researchers from the EPA's National Center for Computational Toxicology are interested in collaborating on three areas of research: Kidney toxicity, liver toxicity and developmental toxicity.

In all of the projects, A*STAR will engage research in stem cell research and tissue models, genomics, high throughput bioimaging, and computational sciences. The collaboration will build on EPA's ToxCast programme which has generated high-throughput screening data on over 1,800 chemicals.