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USAF Funds Sanford-Burnham Chemical Screening Initiative

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Sanford-Burhnam Medical research Institute said today it has received a grant from the US Department of the Air Force to use cell-based assays to study the potential toxicity of large collections of chemicals.

Sanford-Burnham did not disclose the value of the three-year grant.

The aim is to develop a method for assessing potential toxicities in a "rapid, cost-effective manner," Sanford-Burnham said.

"The current approach to assessing the health risks of chemical exposure relies extensively on data from animal models. But humans may react very differently to chemicals than animals," Anne Bang, director of cell biology in Sanford-Burnham's Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics, said in a statement.

"As a way to solve this problem, we have developed a technology platform that relies on high-throughput, human cell-based assays to analyze processes in a cell when it is exposed to a certain chemical," Bang added.

In the project, Sanford-Burnham researchers at both its La Jolla, Calif., and Orlando, Fla. campuses are using induced pluripotent stem cells to test thousands of possible toxins, and they plan to analyze iPSC-derived cells to assess mitochondrial function and identify subsets that show a potential for toxic effects.

USAF Lt. Col. Darrin Ott said Air Force service members "spend time in challenging environments, performing complex missions that have unique chemical mixtures" or newly-developed chemicals, and that this project may lead to "a smarter way to determine potential toxicity and better ensure the health of our personnel and environment."