EPA and Unilever Announce Major Research Collaboration to Advance Non-animal Approaches for Chemical Risk Assessment
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Unilever announced a collaborative agreement to explore better ways to assess chemical risks associated with consumer products. This agreement builds on prior cooperation between EPA and Unilever regarding New Approach Methods (NAMs), which are a promising alternative to conventional toxicity testing that are intended to reduce reliance on the use of animals.
EPA and Unilever have been jointly evaluating and using NAMs since 2015. This collaboration is helping EPA implement its New Approach Methods Work Plan and is the foundation for new efforts to demonstrate that these novel approaches can help decision makers better protect consumers, workers and the environment.
“EPA is a pioneer in developing and applying NAMs to identify and quantify risks to human health, while reducing the use of animals in chemical toxicity testing,” said H. Christopher Frey, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science Policy in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “We are excited to continue the collaboration with Unilever, which enhances the robustness of our mutual research to demonstrate the use of NAMs.”
The new collaborative effort aims to establish a framework for the Next Generation of Risk Assessments based on NAMs. Such assessments are intended to quantify health risks to humans with sufficient scientific rigor to replace conventional animal-based methods and to support EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment.
This collaboration will bring together more than $2 million in both monetary and in-kind contributions, including scientific expertise and equipment, to develop a comprehensive NAMs dataset for a minimum of 40 chemicals. The chemicals will be selected and grouped such that half will be benign and the other half will have known adverse implications for human health. These chemicals will be tested using a wide variety of NAMs. The results will be compared between the two groups to determine how well particular NAMs can infer differences in risk. These data will also be used in case studies to evaluate the potential to use NAMs in regulatory decisions. All data generated through this collaboration will be in the public domain. Thus, academic, corporate, government and nonprofit scientists will be welcome to use all of the project results in their own research.
In addition to the data generated through the collaboration, EPA and Unilever will use chemical data from EPA’s high-throughput screening efforts and the federal government’s Tox21 consortium, which is a collaboration among EPA, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These automated chemical screening technologies rapidly test thousands of chemicals for their effects on human cells or cellular components that are critical to normal function. Data from these technologies are then incorporated into computational models to predict potential adverse health effects and estimate the amount of chemical that may cause these effects.
“Unilever’s safety scientists have built its capability to apply NAMs to ensure Unilever products are safe and sustainable by design, without new animal testing. As part of this new agreement, and by sharing the data and knowledge generated, we aim to build confidence in applying NAMs to protect people and our environment within the broader scientific and regulatory safety communities globally,” said Dr. Julia Fentem, Head of Unilever’s Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre.
Unilever and EPA researchers have been working together on NAMs through a previous collaborative research and development agreement from 2015-2020. The results from the previous collaboration form the foundation for the new efforts announced today.
EPA researchers are developing NAMs, including high-throughput toxicokinetics (HTTK), high-throughput transcriptomics methods (HTTr), high-throughput phenotypic profiling (HTTP) and a variety of associated computer modeling approaches to predict chemical mechanism of action, chemical exposure, use and potency.
Unilever has a long history of developing and using non-animal methods to evaluate the safety of chemicals in their products and has intensively supported the adoption of NAMs in NGRA (Unilever, Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre - YouTube).
For more information on this collaboration, visit https://www.epa.gov/sciencematters/epa-partners-unilever-advance-chemical-screening
For more information on EPA’s use of NAMs: https://www.epa.gov/research/epa-new-approach-methods-efforts-reduce-use-animals-chemical-testing
For more information on EPA’s NAMs Work Plan: https://www.epa.gov/chemical-research/epa-new-approach-methods-work-plan-reducing-use-animals-chemical-testing