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BioSeek Extends ToxCast Participation

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – BioSeek has received $696,000 in funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency to continue providing cell-based assay screening support for the EPA ToxCast screening program, the Asterand subsidiary said today.

BioSeek said that under the phase II funding it will continue to use its BioMap Systems platform, which combines human cell-based assay data with clinically relevant results, to study compounds for their potential toxicity and effects on human health.

The ToxCast program is focused on developing approaches to predict chemical toxicity using data from high-content in vitro assays and developing algorithms that serve as toxicity signatures.

The new funding enables BioSeek to add an additional 100 compounds to the more than 1,000 it has already screened, including new environmental compounds, pesticides, failed pharmaceuticals, and nanomaterials.

In the first and proof-of-concept phase of the collaboration, which began in 2007, EPA and other investigators began comparing toxicity profiling data using the BioMap along with other profiling technologies.

The five-year ToxCast program is structured into three phases, and it is managed by the EPA's National Center for Computational Toxicology. In its first phase, the program produced data from more than 300 chemicals, around 500 in vitro assays, and 100 in vivo endpoints. In the current phase II, the program is focused on expanding and verifying the ability to predict potential human toxicity, and the in the third phase it will expand to include thousands more chemicals and develop a system for prioritizing chemicals that may require more detailed evaluations.

"Through our work with EPA, BioMAP is yielding a rich harvest of biological information on a wide variety of environmental and other chemicals and their potential effects on human health," BioSeek GM Ellen Berg said in a statement.

"As later phases of the ToxCast program include a variety of pharmaceutical compounds," Berg continued, "our proprietary BioMAP compound database is gaining a rich dataset for mining with our pharmaceutical partners, to help understand the activities and potential safety of their own compounds in the context of human biology. Such insights can then be applied to better prioritize compounds in development prior to undertaking costly human clinical trials."