MAASTRICHT, The Netherlands—With an eye toward reducing and refining animal experiments and improving the industry's overall methods of chemical risk assessment, The Netherlands Toxicogenomics Centre (NTC) recently announced its latest round of grants, including €25 million from the Dutch government. In turn, NTC announced it entered into a collaboration with Michigan-based GeneGo Inc. to use its MetaCore and MetaDrug data analysis platforms to analyze gene expression data generated by NTC project members to identify key biological functions and pathways contributing to adverse effects of xenobiotic exposure.
In addition, under the five-year pact, GeneGo will work within the bioinformatics workgroup of the NTC to build predictive toxicity models using GeneGo's "functional descriptor" technology. The aim is to build a model that will allow for the earlier identification of adverse affects of compounds in animals from short-term in vivo experiments, or to also potentially replace these methods with in vitro experiments using cells in place of animals.
"Having GeneGo as a partner in the project, and having access to their leading systems biology data visualization and analysis tools and expertise, will help us to derive the best value from the data we are generating and make progress in the application of an integrated systems toxicology approach to risk assessment," says Prof. Jos Kleinjans, director of the NTC in an announcement describing the collaboration.
For GeneGo, the opportunity to work with NTC hits the company's sweet spot, according to Julie Bryant, vice president of business development and marketing for the company.
"We've built a toxicology platform that they are going to leverage and we will work with them for future developments," she says. "With MetaDrug, we have the ability to predict metabolites, prioritize them and we can look at toxicity issues and off-target effects.
"We can also use MetaCore and MetaDrug for tox biomarkers and we also have our own MetaTox consortium where we've developed even more capabilities and toxicity functional descriptors. Tox is a very important area and that is why we have Richard Brennan, who is a board certified toxicologist, on staff."
In fact, the work with NTC allows GeneGo to work within two different structures—including its own internal toxicity consortium—to further broaden the company's expertise in this area, as well as to continue to develop new toxicity offerings.
"The tools we have developed at GeneGo are an excellent solution for analyzing the multiple data types that will be generated by the NTC members and for understanding the biological basis of chemically-induced toxicity," says Brennan, director of toxicology for GeneGo. "The project will help us to further validate and develop our capabilities in predictive systems toxicology."