SOURCE-ICIS Chemical Business supplement | November 2008

The LRI’s Innovative Science Award encourages
young researchers to engage an new technologies
and solutions to modern environmental and
health challenges

The Long-range Research Initiative AWARD

SCIENCE AWARD MEDAL

SCIENCE AWARD MEDAL

Each year for the past five years, a young European scientist has won significant funding to pursue research into the environmental or human health effects of chemicals. The prize of €100,000 ($130,000) is awarded by the European Chemical Industry Council’s (Cefic’s) LRI programme and gives budding scientists the ability and confidence to pursue their ideas at an early stage in their careers.

The award reflects the chemical industry’s ambition to promote a strong link between innovation and society’s expectations. This year’s winner of the LRI Innovative Science A ward is Dr Emma Taylor from the MRC Toxicology unit of the UK’s Leicester University.

Her winning proposal is for a project on the transgenerational epigenetic effects of environmental chemicals on male fertility using in vivo and in vitro stem cell based systems.

Germ line toxicity, explains Taylor, is a profoundly important area of toxicology because it has the potential to affect not just the exposed population but also future generations.

“There is already evidence that common environmental chemicals can induce harmful inheritable changes. Thus, further research is vital in order fully to assess transgenerational toxicity, understand how such effects are induced, set safety guidelines, and promote the development of solutions and strategies to combat harmful inheritable phenotypes,” explains Taylor.

She comments that the award looked very exciting when she saw the call for entries. “It provided significant financial support, particularly for a personal award, and was very flexible in terms of how the budget could be used. It was also perfect for the toxicogenomic work we do in our lab.”

The award will provide a significant part of her salary for two years and still fund a large consumables budget and money for travelling to conferences. But it is not just the financial benefit, she adds. “This is a prestigious award and will greatly benefit my personal career. I

t gives me an insight into C efic and the chemical industry in general.” Each year, the award alternates between environmental and human health projects, and is funded jointly by C efic and the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC ) or the Federation of European Toxicologists and European Societies of Toxicology (EUROTOX).

LEARNING THE JOB

Previous winners are:

? Dr R oger Godschalk, University of Maastricht, the Netherlands (2004)

? Prof Dr Paul van den Brink, Wageningen University, the Netherlands (2005)

? Dr Ellen Fritsche, H einrich-Heine University, Germany (2006)

? Dr R oman A shauer, Swiss Federal Institute of A quatic Science and Technology (2007).

AWARD REWARDS

AWARD REWARDS

SIGNIFICANT FUNDING.Most agree that the value of the prize represents “significant funding” and stress the freedom and confidence it gives them to carry out their research. Roger Godschalk says winning the prize also helped his career, as the award was recognised in the talent planning programme of his institute. He is using the prize money, and a matching sum provided by the Netherlands’ National Institute for Safety and Environment (RIVM), to investigate germ line mutations caused by exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, notably polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

He is looking for answers to how these chemicals affect DNA in sperm and if mutations can be transferred to subsequent generations. “We started the project from scratch, but have a lot of data coming in now.

We have published one review article and have three papers almost complete and we will publish them soon,” he says. Paul van den Brink agrees, noting that the prize is “a lot of money for a scientific award.” A nd it’s not just the money, he says. “It brings recognition and the freedom to spend it on what you think is important… and accelerate work.” His work is focusing on the sensitivity of different aquatic species to pesticides, depending on their characteristics, such as size and lipid content, and aims to give an understanding of why some species are more sensitive than others.

The project requires a lot of complicated experiments and is assessing no fewer than 15 species. Last year’s winner, R oman A shauer is working on a related topic, developing measurements and models for a better understanding of toxic effects on aquatic organisms over an extended period.

These can help assess the ecotoxicological effect of untested compounds as well as improve the risk assessment of chemicals through a better understanding of how mixtures act over time. A Shauer is able to work with one colleague and two part-time students as a result of the award. “We are up and running and generating data and expect results over the next two to three years.”

Ellen Fritsche’s project is looking into the validation of a human in vitro model for testing developmental neurotoxicity, in an effort to substitute for animal testing, which has ethical, cost and time issues. Gernot Klotz, C efic’s director of research and innovation, says that C efic’s continued support to young scientists “helps broaden our knowledge for developing innovative technologies and products.

The winners’ vision and enthusiasm reaffirms industry’s belief that technology leadership and innovative solutions can help face many challenges of our society today and tomorrow in a responsible way.”

? The 2008 award is presented to Emma Taylor by Evonik’s Michael Droescher Vital support

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Posted by Henry Sapiecha