Brussels, 16 Jan 2003
The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has begun working on (quantitative) structure-activity relationships ((Q)SARs) - theoretical models that can be used to predict the properties of molecules from knowledge of their chemical structure.
(Q)SARs, which use a computer model, are not only a cost effective tool for risk assessment, but can also be used to reduce or replace the use of animals in research. One example of this is the assessment of chemicals produced or imported in quantities of between one and 10 tonnes, an area in which no animal testing was foreseen in the Commission's White Paper on a future chemicals policy.
Project director Andrew Worth expects progress to be made in evaluating the models before the end of 2003, but is unable to predict when (Q)SARS will be taken up by industry: 'Eventual usage is outside our control,' said Dr Worth. 'All we can do is to develop, validate and implement the models, to promote them and to hope that they are taken up.'
The models, to be developed, validated and implemented by the JRC, will also serve a regulatory purpose. One such use could be the REACH system, a proposal by the Environment and Enterprise DGs aimed at controlling chemicals in the EU. New legislation would see a single system for evaluating all chemicals in the EU.
While initial usage is expected to be confined to chemicals, where there are current needs and an impetus, Dr Worth believes that (Q)SARs could also be used for regulating pharmaceuticals and food.
The activity is funded under the Fifth Framework Programme and is coordinated by the European Chemicals Bureau. Other partners include the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM), other Commission services and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
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