See Also: Finding What's Toxic Fast
Background on toxicity testing

NIH Collaborates with EPA to Improve the Safety Testing of Chemicals
Press Release, Feb. 14, 2008

Toxicity Testing Press Conference (MP3 - 14MB)

Memorandum of Understanding PDF icon
On High Throughput Screening, Toxicity Pathway Profiling, and Biological Interpretation of Findings

Transforming Environmental Health Protection PDF icon
Science, Feb. 15, 2008

 

NIH/EPA Safety Testing of Chemicals: Sound Bites and Videos

February 14, 2008

Three government agencies have created a collaboration to shift chemical toxicity testing from animal screening to a quantitative high throughput screening (qHTS) system: the NIH Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC), run by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI); the National Toxicology Program (NTP), run by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); and the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT)

Update: On July 19, 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) joined the Tox21 collaboration.

Chemical Genomics: Robot

Introduction

Three government agencies have created a collaboration to shift chemical toxicity testing from animal screening to a quantitative high throughput screening (qHTS) system: the NIH Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC), run by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), the National Toxicology Program (NTP), run by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT).

This page presents a series of sound bites and video clips that can be used to create a broadcast news story about this collaboration. The video files are presented in Flash video for previewing on the web and in full resolution QuickTime video to download and import directly into video editing systems.

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Sound Bites

Sound Bites by Christopher Austin, M.D.
Director, NIH Chemical Genomics Center
Gaithersburg, Maryland
Description of Sound Bite Running Time Transcript
1. Dr. Austin speaks on the significance of
collaboration.
24 seconds This collaboration is significant both because it brings together three federal agencies to do what they do best individually to serve the American people, and it also is significant because we're hoping to change the paradigm by which toxicity of chemicals is established in this country - to move it, over time, from an animal-based system to a cell-based, in-vitro system.
2. Dr. Austin names the collaborating groups. 46 seconds The participants in the toxicology collaboration are ourselves, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Toxicology Program. To give you background about why we did this and why we are doing this, the mainstay of understanding what chemicals may be hazardous to human health has traditionally been done by animal testing. And animal testing has been tremendously valuable at identifying a myriad of toxins which are dangerous to human health. The problem with animal testing is that it's slow, it's very expensive and increasingly the public has become uncomfortable with the use of animals, large numbers of animals, particularly in the kinds of painful tests, sometimes, that establishing toxicology requires.
3. Dr. Austin gives an overview on how the
screening system works.
41 seconds So at that end of the robot there are about 2.2 million compounds and what happens in the process is that cells are dispensed here that we want to test for some activity, and they're handed off via these robot arms to the compounds down there. Compounds are added, and then they're put in this incubator in the middle for some period of time - a couple of hours, a couple of days, whatever we tell it. And at the end of that time the robot arm goes back in, remembers when it put it into the incubator by the barcode that's on it, pulls it out, and puts it at one of these readers over here that tells you whether the compound, whether the chemical, was active or not. And we can run through a little over 2 million of those a week.
4. Dr. Austin describes equivalent human effort. 16 seconds And I'll give you, give you a sense of how long that would take a person to do, if you had one person doing that by hand. We did that calculation a little while ago, and it would take a person eight hours a day, five days a week, for 12 years to do what we do in three days.

5. Dr. Austin discusses the toxicity screening
strategy using cell-based testing.

1 minute,
4 seconds
About three years ago, the EPA, the NTP, the National Toxicology Program based at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, another one of the NIH institutes and we here at the NCGC began a collaboration to ask could we identify a group of cell-based assays, that is tests of cells, or proteins, or genes which connect as a proxy for animal toxicology. And essentially what we're doing here is taking the rat or taking the person who might experience the toxicology and we're dissecting them into, not for real, but dissecting them theoretically into their various cell types - into brain cells, skin cells, lung cells, liver cells, kidney cells. And then we test each of those cells individually on our robot for toxic responses, for a variety of sorts. And then computationally we put the rat back together again and ask can we establish toxicity of one sort or another to the rat by doing these individual, cell-based tests.
6. Dr. Austin relates collaboration to a recent
National Research Council report calling
for a new toxicity testing strategy.
26 seconds A very nice interlude in this planning happened in the spring when the National Research Council came out with a very important report about toxicity testing in the 21st century that advocated exactly what this group of free collaborators was already doing and has given tremendous affirmation and momentum to this project.

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Video Clips

Clips of the NCGC Production Robots and the Production Line
Name of Clip Running Time Description
1. NCGC (right-to-left pan of the facility) 26 seconds Right-to-left pan of the front of chemical genomics production line showing chemical prep area, incubator and library carousel of compounds.
2. Three robots (extreme wide shot) 19 seconds A tilt-down wide shot showing three yellow robot arms moving plates in the testing production line.
3. Front of production line (extreme wide angle) 12 seconds A wide angle establishing a shot of the front of the production line.
4. Robots two and three working (medium shot) 17 seconds A medium shot of robots two and three moving plates along the production line.

5. Two robots moving (medium shot)

25 seconds Medium tilt-down shot of robots one and two moving plates along the production line.
6. Multiple plates moving (wide shot) 33 seconds Wide shot, from an angle, of two robots moving plates along the production line.
7. Two robots exchanging plates (wide shot) 18 seconds Wide shot, from the side, showing two robots moving plate across transfer platform.
8. Transfer Plate (extreme close-up) 13 seconds Extreme close-up of a transfer plate.
9. Tilt-down feeding the detector (close-up) 22 seconds Close-up tilt-down shot of a robot arm placing a reaction plate on a detector that measures the reactions.
10. Microfluidics pipetting machine
(extreme close-up to wide shot)
17 seconds Extreme close-up pulls back show a microfluid pipetting machine that puts chemicals in plates.
11. Robot feeding stacking rack
(wide shot with pan)
8 seconds Wide shot of a robot arm moving a plate to a stacking rack.
12. Control panel (wide shot) 11 seconds Wide shot of the control panel for the production line with a robot arm moving in the background.
13. Chemistry station (wide shot) 15 seconds Wide shot of the chemistry station where chemicals are mixed and added to the pipeline with the robot moving in the background.
14. Molecular libraries (wide shot) 10 seconds Static wide shot showing the molecular libraries end of the production line with a library carousel rotating.
15. Two robots feed microfluidics system
(medium shot)
11 seconds Medium shot of two robots moving plates across the transfer station in front of a fluid-handling system.
16. Molecular library carousel (medium shot) 7 seconds Medium shot of the molecular library carousel rotating to make volumes available to production line.
17. Fluid handling (wide shot) 14 seconds Wide shot of the fluid supply and handling end of the production line.
18. Technician cleaning sensor (wide shot) 6 seconds Medium, over-the-shoulder shot of a technician cleaning the sensor on a bench-top lab machine.
19. Technician cleaning plates (wide shot) 19 seconds Wide shot of a technician removing reaction plates from tray and cleaning them on a lab bench.
20. Technician laying out plates
(wide shot to medium shot)
32 seconds Wide shot of a technician laying out plates on lab bench, with a zoom in to a medium shot as he cleans the plates.
21. Technician cleaning many plates
(extreme close-up)
9 seconds Extreme close-up of a technician cleaning reaction plates on a lab bench.

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Video Specifications

These standard definition videos were shot on a Sony 570 DVCAM and edited at full resolution in an Avid Media Composer. The video clips were exported as QuickTime Movies, using the QuickTime H.264 codec, with the following specifications:

  1. 720 x 486 pixels frame size
  2. 30 frames per second
  3. RGB color, compressed at millions of colors, for best compression.
  4. 44.1 kHz, uncompressed audio, 2 channels of pan-centered mono audio.

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Terms of Use

These videos were developed for use by broadcast media to assist with the preparation of news stories. However, all government-produced video is in the public domain and copyright free. Anyone is freely able to use these clips. These video clips were created by Genome Productions, a part of the Communications and Public Liaison Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute. As a courtesy, it is requested that the an appropriate acknowledgement be given: "Courtesy: National Human Genome Research Institute."

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Last Updated: May 30, 2014