what we do

Working groups

We synergistically combine our efforts by organising joint training and workshops, sharing data and tools, collaboratively mapping findings, disseminating results across our networks, and working together toward regulatory uptake of New Approach Methodologies (NAMs). Taking a bottom-up approach in which consortium members from all three projects directly collaborate within specific domains of activity, ASPIS is powered by the following working groups focusing on:

Chemical Selection

and ASPIS Database

The goal of the Chemical Selection working group (CSWG) is to coordinate chemical selection among the ASPIS partners. Members are responsible for collecting and distributing information on chemicals used by the three consortia. Through its coordinated effort, the CSWG hopes to minimise duplication of efforts and compound purchasing and to identify inter-consortia activities.

CSWG is involved in developing ASPIS-wide case studies, communication, and assisting other WG by providing physical-chemical and toxicological information on individuals or groups of chemicals. To accomplish these goals, the CSWG established a sub-working group Database/AI Selection, now a new WG: the Database WG (DbWG), responsible for creating an ASPIS-wide chemical database. The database will initially contain information on physicochemical characteristics and toxicological information on chemicals used by ASPIS. In the future, it will become a central resource of the data generated by three consortia. The DbWG is developing cutting-edge technologies to mine the literature for toxicological and risk assessment information. The intended users of this database will include basic scientists, as well as members of ASPIS involved in risk assessment, policy, communication, and computational approaches. Ultimately this database will be made available to the general public.

Co-chairs of the CSWG: Jonathan Freedman (PrecisionTox), Sylvia Escher (RISK-HUNT3R), Mathieu Vinken (ONTOX)

Co-chairs of the DbWG: Barry Hardy (RISK-HUNT3R), Thomas Luechtefeld (ONTOX)

Kinetics and Exposure

The Kinetics and Exposure working group (KEWG) consists of investigators from each of the three consortia that work on defining chemical exposure levels in the environment, human populations, target organs, and in vitro assays.

Complementary NAMs are being developed in each of the three consortia that will benefit from being integrated into a common, pragmatic guideline for risk assessors wishing to use exposure, in vitro distribution kinetics, physiologically based kinetic, and in vitro-in vivo extrapolation models for NGRA. The working group aims to develop such guidelines detailing tiered approaches to exposure and kinetics assessment and evaluate it with common case study chemicals.

Co-chairs: Nynke Kramer (ONTOX), Sylvia Escher (RISK-HUNT3R)


The ASPIS Omics work group (OWG) is dedicated to promoting the transition of omics into NGRA. For this, all data produced by ASPIS will be made compliant with the OECD Transcriptomics and Metabolomics Report Framework (TRF and MRF, respectively). These frameworks have been designed to allow regulatory agencies to assess the quality of omics datasets. The R-ODAF (Omics Data Analysis Framework for regulatory application) established as a reference pipeline for comparing the output of two different transcriptomics datasets, will also be presented as a possible reference analysis pipeline to be used in ASPIS.

Regrouping all the omics experts of the three consortia, the OWG is organising a monthly meeting to discuss data analysis strategies, software presentation and statistical best practices. Every member is welcome to present their specific omics-related problem and benefit from the group’s expertise to obtain ideas and possibly a consensus.

The OWG will contribute to the general ASPIS case study by assuring that any omics dataset selected by other WGs is processed and analysed according to state of the art.

Co-chairs: John Colbourne (PrecisionTox), Florian Caiment (ONTOX)

Computational Approaches

The Computational Approaches Working Group (CAWG) is organising activities related to the computational methods used in ASPIS. These activities are focused on the following areas:

  1. Development of specific in silico models and read-across tools to evaluate properties of interest;
  2. Methodological studies to improve in silico techniques that can be applied within ASPIS (a specific method may ideally be exported from one project to another);
  3. Support the activities within other WGs.

The CAWG will support other WGs by providing inputs useful for the implementation of AOPs, identification of selected chemicals, development of toxicokinetic models, risk assessment, and training. A common repository of tools for specific endpoints will be created to identify the common background and future perspectives and needs. Similarly, data associated with the models will be organised. Synergies inside the CAWG and the other WGs will be defined to increase efficiency and maximise results.

Co-chairs: Emilio Benfenati (ONTOX), Joseph Shaw (PrecisionTox), Gerhard Ecker (RISK-HUNT3R)

Risk Assessment

The three ASPIS consortia have complementary approaches on how to use NAMs for the hazard and risk assessment of chemicals including prioritisation, grouping/read-across, and hazard characterisation. The ASPIS risk assessment working group (RAWG) intends to share and link different approaches, coordinate joint activities, and critically review ASPIS research in comparison to previous activities for promoting NAMs with reference to the EU-ToxRisk project.

The RAWG also aims to identify gaps, limitations, and advantages of chosen approaches. It will compare approaches and results to those outside of ASPIS, particularly with a global view to identify targets for hazard and risk assessment to plan for joint/coordinated activities.

Furthermore, it aims to connect research activities in ASPIS to form joint case studies. Together with other WGs, it will facilitate the requirements for hazard and risk assessment by end-users and stakeholders.

Finally, the RAWG will ensure the complementarity of its activities with the Partnership for the Assessment of Risk from Chemicals (PARC) to support the European Union and national chemical risk assessment and risk management bodies with new data, knowledge, methods, networks, and skills. This will facilitate the transition to next-generation evidence-based chemical risk assessment.

Co-chairs: Stefan Scholz (PrecisionTox), Erwin L. Roggen (ONTOX), Mirjam Luijten (RISK-HUNT3R)

Quantitative Adverse Outcome Pathway

The scope of the quantitative Adverse Outcome Pathway Working Group (qAOPWG) is to support the development of qAOPs across ASPIS.

Specifically, this WG aims to investigate models that quantify Molecular Initiating Events (MIEs) or Key Event Relationships (KERs) within existing AOPs using non-confidential data, as well as identifying and sharing good practices.

Specific activities involve bringing added value to qAOP development across ASPIS by developing common ideas. This would include jointly finding solutions to problems and being able to share knowledge of dose responses, data and models across the three projects.

The qAOPWG aims to develop one or more common qAOPs, including those from linear and network AOPs that are of interest to all partners, such that data and expertise can be combined. The WG will facilitate the integration of qAOPs with MIE and PBPK modelling to enable Quantitative Systems Toxicology approaches.

In terms of application, the qAOPWG will identify how risk assessors could apply qAOPs, with an emphasis on regulatory use. As part of regulatory use, the degree of confidence risk assessors need to use qAOPs in risk assessment will be considered, along with obstacles/concerns for assessors to use qAOPs in risk assessment.

Co-chairs: Mark Cronin (RISK-HUNT3R), Huan Yang (ONTOX)

Communication and Dissemination

The Communication and Dissemination Working Group (C&DWG) aims to harmonise dissemination activities and maximise the impact of ASPIS. The three consortia coordinate communication and dissemination activities with the shared mission to unbiasedly inform on how NAMs-based strategies can rapidly accelerate and improve chemical risk assessment. The communication teams of the three consortia work together to synergise dissemination efforts and positively impact ASPIS visibility and the outreach of its key messages. In particular, the objective of the C&DWG is to build, beyond projects’ specificities, a single ASPIS to have a stronger voice to vehicle its outcome to regulatory stakeholders, policy-makers, non-governmental organisations, and the lay public. Different actions have been pursued to achieve these goals, such as creating a common visual identity, a joint website (aspis-cluster.eu), joint briefings/letters, and sharing descriptive material, leaflets, and factsheets; to promote the ASPIS goals and activities.

ASPIS speaks jointly online via a coherent social media presence to facilitate message amplification. The communication teams of each consortium echo news and outcome of each other and disseminate those via their channels. ASPIS also jointly communicates via official press declarations and policy briefs as support statements of legislative policy initiatives or involvement in public consultations. Joint publications, op-eds and press coverage in European journals are also used to inform stakeholders about ASPIS.

The ASPIS communication plan also includes unwired activities, such as participation in joint conference sessions at international conferences and organising the ASPIS annual Open Symposium. The symposium series involves consortia members, stakeholders, and the ASPIS regulatory advisory board to discuss crucial achievements and challenges in implementing NAMs into chemical risk assessment in Europe and beyond. This allows ASPIS to support EU green deal objectives, such as a toxic-free environment.

The C&DWG implemented the creation of ASPIS Academy to ensure the training of Early Stage Researchers in soft (e.g., communication) and hard (e.g., AI training) skills, as well as networking among them.

Co-chairs: François Busquet (ONTOX, PrecisionTox), Giorgia Pallocca (RISK-HUNT3R)

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