£250k prize offered to encourage human toxicology breakthrough

A GBP250k prize is being offered to encourage researchers to deliver a breakthrough in toxicology research that could ultimately lead to the replacement of animals used in product safety testing.

The 'Black Box' prize is offered by the cosmetics company Lush, which hopes to stimulate an international research focus on describing human toxicology pathways - the cellular chain of events that follow when a toxic chemical first interacts with cells in the body. The prize will be offered to a research team that fully elucidates and describes a human toxicity pathway, with experimental evidence to demonstrate all the links in the pathway from the first interaction of one or more chemical molecules to the full effects at the cellular level.

Dr Kelly BéruBé, Director of the Lung & Particle Research Group at Cardiff University's School of Bioscience and one of the Lush Prize judges, says:

"To me there's no doubt that generating more robust and relevant research results based on knowledge of human toxicology pathways could have huge impact on the speed and cost of translating basic research into patient benefit. The research community has got stuck in a rut of using a test model that we know doesn't really fit the bill at all because regulatory bodies still insist on using animals. I think it's time to push for solutions to these challenges so that can help to change this culture.

"Whilst a full elucidation of some toxicity pathways is close - for example for direct carcinogens and for skin sensitising chemicals, the Black Box award is likely to need a large collaborative effort, involving a raft of new and emerging models and techniques that bring together components to answer different aspects of one question," says Dr BéruBé. "It's a tough ask, and that's reflected in the size of the Prize, which is a serious amount of money."
Research published from up to three years prior to entry is eligible. For further information, please see
If the Black Box prize is not awarded in any one year, the GBP250k is split equally across several categories to reward scientists and initiatives that are working towards the replacement of animal testing. Winners of the 2012 categories included researchers from the European Commission Joint Research Centre in Italy; Johns Hopkins University, USA; and Aston University, UK.

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