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Agilent Technologies and Johns Hopkins University to Research Novel Toxicity Pathways for Embryonic Brain Development Using Metabolomics


SANTA CLARA, Calif. and BALTIMORE, Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) and the Agilent Foundation today announced that Dr. Thomas Hartung has received an Agilent Thought Leader Award in support of his research for the use of toxicity pathways to predict developmental neurotoxicity. This work could help identify possible contributions of chemicals to disorders such as autism and attention hyperactivity disorders. Dr. Hartung recently was named a leading toxicologist by the science journal Nature.

The award includes Agilent Foundation funding for research and a company donation of instruments worth more than $500,000 to the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT), part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Hartung, director of CAAT, will focus his research on the identification of novel toxicity pathways by combining two promising cell culture models with emerging metabolomics technology.

“This award makes cutting edge technology available for a project in the core of implementing the vision of a new regulatory toxicology,” says Hartung. “Problems of the 21st century can only be solved with 21st century technologies.”

“The information we need to fully understand the toxic effects of chemicals on humans cannot be obtained using traditional animal models. We are not 70-kilogram rats,” adds Hartung.

The identified pathways will be annotated in a public database the scientific community can use for further mechanistic studies. This will be of particular benefit to the pharmaceutical and chemical industry to assist with identifying how drug compounds and chemicals interact with human biochemical pathways. In the case of drug development, this information will allow for better toxicological assessment of promising drug lead compounds at early preclinical stages, reducing costs and time.

The field of toxicology is undergoing rapid change prompted by the 2007 National Research Council’s report, ’Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy.’ The report aims to move toxicity testing to work with human cells and computer modeling instead of animal tests to improve the prediction of human adverse effects. This is considered the way forward to assess the tens of thousands of yet untested chemicals in the environment and consumer products. The study supported with the award is piloting this approach.

“The research will have great impact on the field of toxicology by performing a proof of principle study for the use of toxicity pathways to predict developmental neurotoxicity,” said Mark Vossenaar, senior director of strategic marketing for Agilent’s Life Sciences Group. “Working closely with one of the leading research institutions in the world, we believe the results will demonstrate the feasibility of LC/MS based metabolomics in toxicity studies.”

Agilent’s new Thought Leader Program promotes fundamental advances in the life sciences by contributing financial support, products and/or expertise to the research of influential thought leaders.

About CAAT

The Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) has worked with scientists since 1981 to find new methods to replace the use of laboratory animals in experiments, reduce the number of animals tested, and refine necessary tests to eliminate pain and distress. CAAT is an academic, science-based center affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. It is based on the belief that the best science is humane science. The programs seek to provide a better, safer, more humane future for people and animals. CAAT provides a variety of resources, including grants for scientists developing non-animal methods, workshops on alternative methods, books, newsletters, and other publications. CAAT also manages Altweb, an international online clearinghouse of alternatives news and resources.

CAAT’s approach to toxicology follows the 3Rs principle to pursue alternative toxicological methods that reduce, refine and replace the use of laboratory animals in toxicological research. The principle of the 3Rs was first proposed by William Russell and Rex Burch in 1959. In their book “The Principles of Humane Experimental Technique,” they classified humane techniques under the headings refinement, reduction, and replacement, commonly known now as the 3Rs.

About Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public health

As a leading international authority on public health, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is dedicated to protecting health and saving lives. Every day, the School works to keep millions safe from illness and injury by pioneering new research, deploying its knowledge and expertise in the field, and educating tomorrow’s scientists and practitioners in the global defense of human life. Founded in 1916 as part of the Johns Hopkins University, the Bloomberg School of Public Health is the world’s oldest and largest independent school of public health, with over 2,000 students from 78 countries. For more information, visit

About Agilent Technologies

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) is the world’s premier measurement company and a technology leader in chemical analysis, life sciences, electronics and communications. The company’s 18,500 employees serve customers in more than 100 countries. Agilent had net revenues of $4.5 billion in fiscal 2009. Information about Agilent is available on the Web at


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