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 ASPIS chemical selection working group (CSWG) is co-chaired by Prof. Mathieu Vinken (ONTOX) and Prof. Jonathan Freedman (PrecisionTox).

The CSWG includes members from the three consortia and the Joint Research Centre. This working group aims to coordinate chemical selection among the ASPIS partners. Through this coordinated effort, the CSWG plans to minimise duplication of efforts, compound purchasing and identify inter-consortia activities.

Additionally, the CSWG is involved in developing ASPIS-wide case studies and communication and assisting other working groups. The CSWG has established two sub-working groups to accomplish these goals: Database and AI Selection.

The sub-working groups evolved into the new ASPIS Database working group (DbWG) that addresses database needs beyond chemical selection/chemo information and develops and deploys related biological and toxicological knowledge. It will expand the ASPIS database to form an international chemical knowledge resource supporting predictive toxicology, risk assessment guidance, policy development, communication and computational approaches.

Chemical selection can be an essential component in developing NAMs and NGRA. Therefore, CSWG works closely with the ASPIS Risk Assessment, Computational Approaches and qAOP working group.

Kinetics and Exposure

This working group consists of consortium partners from each of the three ASPIS research projects 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 research projects 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 (PBK), and in vitro-in vivo extrapolation (IVIVE) models for next generation risk assessment (NGRA).

The aim of this working group is to develop such a guideline detailing a tiered approach to exposure and kinetics assessment and evaluate it with common case study chemicals.

Omics

The ASPIS Omics working group is first dedicated to promoting the transition of Omics into the next-generation risk assessment (NGRA).

For this, all data produced by the ASPIS core project 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 ASPIS Omics WG is organizing a monthly meeting to discuss data analysis strategies, software presentation and statistical best practices. Every member will be welcome to present their specific Omics-related problem and benefit from the group’s expertise to obtain ideas and possibly a consensus.

Lastly, the ASPIS Omics working group will contribute to the general ASPIS case study by assuring that any Omics dataset selected by other WGs is processed and analyzed according to state of the art.

Computational Approaches

The WG is organising activities related to the computational methods used in ASPIS. These activities relate mainly to these areas:

  1. Development of specific models to evaluate the properties of interest (in silico models and read-across tools);
  2. Methodological studies related to improved techniques to be applied within ASPIS (a specific method may ideally be exported from one project to another);
  3. Support the activities within other working groups, providing valuable inputs, for instance, to a) the implementation of AOP, b) the identification of selected chemicals, c) the development of toxicokinetic models, d) risk assessment, e) training, etc.;
  4. 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 this WG and the other working groups will be defined to increase efficiency and maximize the results.

Risk Assessment

The three ASPIS projects 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 WG on risk assessment intends to:

  • Share and link the different approaches;
  • Coordinate joint activities; 
  • Critically review ASPIS research compared to previous activities for promoting NAMs in hazard and risk assessment of chemicals, e.g. concerning the EU-ToxRisk project;
  • Identify gaps, limitations and advantages of the chosen approaches;
  • Compare the approach and results to other approaches outside ASPIS, particularly with a global view; 
  • Identify targets for hazard and risk assessment early in the project to plan for joint/coordinated activities;
  • Connect research activities in the ASPIS cluster to form joint case studies together with other ASPIS WG;
  • Facilitate that the requirements for hazard and risk assessment by end-users and stakeholders can be considered appropriately;
  • Link and ensure complementarity of our activities with the Partnership for the Assessment of Risk from Chemicals (PARC) to support EU and national chemical risk assessment and risk management bodies with new data, knowledge, methods, networks and skills to facilitate the transition to next generation evidence-based risk assessment.

Quantitative Adverse Outcome Pathway

The scope of the quantitative Adverse Outcome Pathway (qAOP) working group is to support the development of qAOPs across ASPIS.

Specifically, the qAOP WG aims to investigate models that (semi-)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 are likely to involve bringing added value to qAOP development across ASPIS by developing common ideas, this could include, for instance, jointly finding solutions to problems and being able to share knowledge of dose-responses, data and models across the three ASPIS projects.

The qAOP WG aims is 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 pooled. The WG will facilitate the integration of qAOPs with MIE and PBPK modelling to enable Quantitative Systems Toxicology (QST) approaches.

In terms of application, the qAOP WG will identify how risk assessors would use 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 the obstacles/concerns for assessors to use qAOPs in risk assessment.

Communication and Dissemination

The Communication and Dissemination WG aims to harmonise dissemination activities and to maximise impact. It will ensure a focused and dynamic approach, reflecting the shared vision of the three projects.

The ASPIS’s communication and dissemination plan include:

  • Joint visual identity: cluster name, acronym and logo, templates for documents and presentations;
  • Coherent social media presence;
  • Joint policy briefs, editorials and factsheet;
  • Annual open symposia;
  • Joint session at international conferences.

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