The Notox study, which began in 2011, will use extensive experiments on human cells to develop computer models and algorithms which can show the long-term effects on chemicals on the body.
These predictions are anticipated to help replace animal testing by providing a different source of testable predictions and allowing everyday products, such as cosmetics and toothpaste, to be examined for toxicity without causing harm.
The 60-month study will draw on academic talent from all over the EU.
In a statement on their website, Notox commented: “The replacement of in vivo testing for systematic, repeated dose and long-term toxicity in humans still represents a major challenge.”
“The existing long term methods involving animals can only be replaced by incorporating various strategies into an integrated multifaceted platform using a systems biology approach.”
The project draws on extensive test-tube experiments by Notox scientists on the liver, the most important organ for removing toxic substances from the human body.
These have been used to develop algorithms for computer models which model the processes and reactions observed in cells, allowing more effective predictions as the effects of specific substances.
Elmar Heinzle, project co-ordinator of Notox, explained: “These computer-aided models will help predict the long-term toxic effects on the human body.”
One advantage of this process is that it removes the need for animal testing, which was fully banned in the EU on March 11.
Notox has drawn funding of almost €10m. The action has been co-funded by the European Commission and Cosmetics Europe, the European trade association of the cosmetics industry.
A consortium of scientists from institutions including the biochemical engineering Institute of Saarland University and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique are involved in developing the new models.
11 academic institutions, including “top academic experts and SMEs” from France, Sweden, The Netherlands, Israel, GB and Germany are also working on the project.