IHS Chemical Week


Chemicals Safety: Getting on with it

November 20, 2009 | By ALEX SCOTT

Participants of the Long-range Research Initiative (LRI) - a program introduced by the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) to further the scientific understanding of chemicals safety - met at LRI’s annual workshop in Brussels yesterday. Eleven years into the program and there’s no less purpose within it than there was when I attended LRI’s inaugural press briefing in Brussels all those years ago. The palpable mood among more than 100 participants at the workshop- made up of a good number of toxicologists and product stewardship experts from industry and academia-was of wanting to take action and get on with the next safety project that would further understanding about chemicals safety.


LRI’s program manager Bruno Hubesch duly delivered, announcing a slew of eight research projects scheduled to take place in 2010 at a cost to industry of €3.5 million ($5.2 million). This is an increase on the average of $2 million/year executed under the direction of ACC, Cefic, and JCIA.


Beyond the annual projects that industry agrees to commission, LRI also awarded an annual Innovative Science Award worth €100,000 to a young researcher with a proposal for a groundbreaking research project. This year’s winner, Imperial College’s (London) Hector Keun, a lecturer in biological chemistry, has proposed a research project that will deliver greater understanding about synthetic chemicals in the human body.


The winner of the award in 2008, Emma Taylor, from Leicester University (Leicester, U.K.) took the prize a year ago at the workshop got to work explaining how she had spent the money-or at least some of it, detailing her experiments to determine the ability of certain chemicals to reduce male fertility. The money she received from her award has enabled her to bring in staff to help her "crack on" with her projects in the lab.


The caveat to LRI’s “go do it” approach is that the industry appears to be slightly stumped about how it can better communicate LRI’s scientific findings-progressive as they are-to individuals beyond the chemicals industry. In a world where good news is sometimes no news, the LRI team – at least partly driven by the very able Gernot Klotz, director of science and innovation – concedes that it may have to learn some new tricks in the form of new media to access that wider audience.


LRI is one good news science story that needs to be got out. Communicating effectively about science is an arduous task- but it's one that Gernot and the rest of the LRI team have pledged to get to grips with and get on with.

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