EcoToxChip: A toxicogenomics tool for chemical prioritization and environmental management
Chemical contamination of our ecosystems is considered one of the greatest threats to life on our planet. Regulatory agencies and businesses share responsibility for managing these chemicals, but the sheer number – more than 100,000 globally, of which 4,300 have been named as priorities by Canada’s Chemical Management Plan – that need to be evaluated has made it prohibitively time consuming and expensive to assess the risks of each chemical.
Drs. Niladri Basu of McGill University, Markus Hecker of University of Saskatchewan, and Doug Crump at Environment and Climate Change Canada are leading a team to develop, test, validate and commercialize EcoToxChip. EcoToxChip will be an internationally validated PCR-based (polymerase chain reaction, which amplifies a small piece of DNA to produce thousands of copies) tool that aims to help overcome the tremendous uncertainty associated with current risk assessment approaches. EcoToxChip will provide the global community with an advanced toxicity-testing platform that is accessible, affordable, consistent, and reliable. To ensure adoption of the tool, the project will provide a user-friendly bioinformatics portal (EcoToxXplorer.ca) and an end user-validated technical guidance document, as well as leverage social science knowledge concerning institutional entrepreneurship.
The EcoToxChip will support more focused use of animal testing as well as improved regulatory decision making and cost efficiencies for users. Using the Government of Canada’s Chemical Management Plan as an example, the EcoToxChip could potentially generate savings of $27.3 million per year, speed testing activities by seven-fold, and reduce the number of animals used for testing by 90 per cent. The project brings together key national and global end users and stakeholders with world-class academic scientists, thus ensuring widespread adoption. Together, the EcoToxChip and EcoToxXplorer.ca will make ecological and chemical risk assessment more cost-effective, timely, informative, and ethical.
The goal of the GE3LS research component of the project is to produce social science knowledge about the phenomenon of “institutional entrepreneurship” and to leverage this knowledge in ways that make project team members more effective as change agents who transform institutionalized practices in the field of ecological risk assessment of chemicals by developing, commercializing and ensuring widespread adoption of EcoToxChips and the associated EcoToxXplorer.ca portal. The GE3LS research component of the project also aims to produce a Technical Guidance Document which will serve as a resource to advise end-users on how to adopt EcoToxChips.
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