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The traditional approaches to toxicity testing have posed multiple challenges for evaluating the safety of commercial chemicals, pesticides, food additives/contaminants, and medical products. The challenges include the numbers of chemicals that need to be tested, time and resource intensive nature of traditional toxicity tests, and unexpected adverse effects that occur in pharmaceutical clinical trials despite the extensive toxicological testing. Over a decade ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Toxicology Program (NTP), National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) formed a federal consortium for “Toxicology in the 21st Century” (Tox21) with a focus on developing and evaluating in vitro high-throughput screening (HTS) methods for hazard identification and providing mechanistic insights. The Tox21 consortium generated data on thousands of pharmaceuticals and data poor chemicals, developed better understanding of the limits and applications of in vitro methods, and enabled incorporation of HTS data into regulatory decisions. To more broadly address the challenges in toxicology, Tox21 has developed a new strategic and operational plan that expands the focus of its research activities. The new focus areas include developing an expanded portfolio of alternative test systems, addressing technical limitations of in vitro test systems, curating legacy in vivo toxicity testing data, establishing scientific confidence in the in vitro test systems, and refining alternative methods for characterizing pharmacokinetics and in vitro assay disposition. The new Tox21 strategic and operational plan addresses key challenges to advance toxicology testing and will benefit both the organizations involved and the toxicology community.
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