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Faculty & Staff Honors

UMass Amherst Faculty Leads International Team Awarded Grant to Bring New Toxicology Techniques to Russia

Dr. Alexander Suvorov, University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences assistant professor of Environmental Health Sciences, is leading an international team awarded a grant by the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program. The $92,610 grant will fund a yearlong project that aims to increase awareness of new toxicology techniques in Russia.

[Photo: Dr. Alexander Suvorov]

The project, titled “Shaping the Future of Chemical Safety Together” is a partnership with The Center for Environment and Sustainable Development (ECO-Accord) in Moscow. ECO-Accord is a nonprofit non-governmental group researching new solutions for issues related to sustainability, and raising public awareness of these problems.

Dr. Suvorov and his colleagues’ goal is to build a network of toxicology experts in Russia who will work to integrate new practices for testing chemicals derived from the Toxicology Testing in the 21st Century (Tox21) program. Tox21 came about through a collaboration between the US National Institutes of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration. Like many countries, Russia’s current approach to toxicology uses tests that rely on experiments using animals. Advances in biology and biotechnology are allowing scientists to eliminate the use of lab animals and study the effects of chemicals using cells, components of cells, and portions of living tissue. The Tox21 approach has a number of advantages: animal tests tend to use higher doses than would be expected in humans, studies using animals observe for clear signs of negative health impacts rather than examining biological changes leading to these impacts, the use of animals is more costly than Tox21 studies, and Tox21 studies are also more humane.

“Russia is the third largest chemical producer in the world,” notes Dr. Suvorov. “A significant share of chemical compounds produced in Russia are also destined for the international market,” he adds.

The team plans to initiate interest in Tox21 through a series of seminars that aim to create a dialogue between Russian leaders in many sectors related to chemical safety and the toxicology experts Dr. Suvorov is teaming with from University of Massachusetts-Amherst School of Public Health and Health Science. The project will also be translating key materials about Tox21 practices into Russian, which will be available through the ECO-Accord website. An additional dialogue will take place through a new Russian-speaking group on LinkedIn that will be focused on Tox21, and include key participants identified and invited by Dr. Suvorov and his colleagues.

For the project Dr. Suvorov, along with assistant professors Dr. Richard Pilsner and Dr. Laura Vandenberg of UMass’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, will team with colleagues Dr. Oleg Sergeyev, Dr. Olga Speranskaya, and Ms. Oxana Tsitser of The Center for Environment and Sustainable Development Eco-Accord in Moscow.