ONTOX at the EUROTOX and ASPIS Open Symposium 2023

ONTOX scientists participated in the EUROTOX Congress on 10-13 September and linked ASPIS Open Symposium on 14-15 September. Both events took place in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

During the EUROTOX 2023, ONTOX scientists, including the young ones, presented more than 15 posters and presentations, demonstrating their dedication to New Approach Methodologies (NAMs). Moreover, Mathieu Vinken, ONTOX coordinator, introduced the project aims to an international multidisciplinary audience in the “Ontologies as translational tools in toxicology” session.

Members of the ONTOX consortium at EUROTOX 2023.

Video interviews shot with ONTOX researchers

ONTOX scientists were thrilled to be part of EUROTOX, the 57th Congress of the European Societies of Toxicology. Matteo Piumatti (ALTERTOX) interviewed some of them in the ASPIS cluster booth, where ASPIS cluster members discussed the cluster’s mission with the EUROTOX expert audience. 

Nynke Kramer (Wageningen University & Research) explained: “I’m here at EUROTOX because it’s a great way to learn about the new initiatives or ongoing initiatives, the research initiatives in this case for specifically NAMs and its integration and risk assessment. This year, particularly, there are quite a number of talks and a lot of posters on actual case studies of applying NAMs. So we have been talking about it for many years that we should be doing this, but I think this year is one of the first where we have got some actual case studies to see how well it works.” 

Harm Heusinkveld (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, RIVM) elaborated on his drivers for attending this event: “The reason why I’m here is that this is a really nice conference with an international audience, and it gives me the opportunity to see the latest development in toxicity testing. And, of course, I’m here for the ASPIS cluster meeting.” 

Michael Guy Diemar (3Rs Management and Consulting ApS) was also excited to be at EUROTOX 2023: “Working with the implementation of the ONTOX approach, it’s important for us to have the possibility to approach new potential stakeholders. We are very happy that some potential new stakeholders have reached out to us, and we have some meetings during the conference […]. The presentation of today with the regulatory acceptance of New Approach Methodologies was of my key interest because this is what we are worrying about. We are looking into the end users’ acceptance of the whole approach developed by ONTOX, the probabilistic risk assessments.”

ASPIS Open Symposium 2023 was a huge success

The symposium started right away after the EUROTOX Congress. The symposium updated participants on the latest work of the ASPIS cluster, formed by three Horizon 2020 consortia (ONTOXPrecisionToxRISK-HUNT3R), focused on implementing NAMs for chemical risk assessment. ASPIS aims to bring Europe closer towards sustainable, animal-free, and reliable chemical risk assessment.

Prof. John Colbourne (PrecisionTox, ASPIS Cluster Coordinator for 2023 – 2024) opened the third ASPIS Open Symposium.

As remarked one of the attendants, Nicolas Roth (Swiss Centre for Applied Human Toxicology): “Exciting to learn more about NAMs for regulatory use at the third ASPIS Open Symposium in Ljubljana. Great opportunities for networking and improving the European Partnership for the Assessment of Risks from Chemicals (PARC)-ASPIS interaction. Feel the pulse of this amazing like-minded community!”

Young scientists in the spotlight

During the ASPIS Open Symposium, young scientists had a splendid opportunity to network, learn and discuss their future collaborations using NAMs for chemical risk assessment. This was due to the ASPIS Academy, the initiative that promotes ASPIS Early Stage Researchers’ professional growth and development. Subsequently, young researchers had the unique opportunity to master their skills in grant writing training, where they learned how to tackle common hurdles that divide them from a successful grant proposal submission.

Young scientists, members of the ASPIS Academy.

Job Berkhout, ONTOX young researcher from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), was selected to present his outstanding poster, “Towards a virtual embryo”, as a flash talk. He explained that the simulation of a complex biological process, such as the neural tube closure, demonstrates that computational models of biological processes will provide an alternative approach to chemical safety assessment with less reliance on animal testing.

Job Berkhout presented his poster in a flash talk.

Best Poster Award for Anouk Verhoeven

Last but not least, one young researcher was granted the ASPIS Best Poster Award. The award went to Anouk Verhoeven, ONTOX PhD Researcher at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Her winnings were due to the excellent poster entitled “An updated adverse outcome pathway network on chemical-induced liver steatosis”. This endeavour identifies data and knowledge gaps, advancing predictive non-animal approaches for modern human risk assessment. Anouk’s effort was rewarded by the European Society of Toxicology in Vitro (ESTIV) with an ESTIV 2024 Congress Bursary. ESTIV Congress 2024 will occur from 3 to 6 June 2024 in Prague, Czech Republic.

Anouk Verhoeven, the winner of the ASPIS Best Poster Award (on the left) and Agata Ormanin-Lewandowska (on the right), PrecisionTox Project Manager.