National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences
Christopher Austin serves as the director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), working to improve translation of laboratory research into interventions that benefit people from the clinic to the community. Before NCATS, he directed programs through the National Human Genome Research Initiative including the Toxicology in the 21st Century Initiative. Many of the efforts led by NCATS embody the high-throughput and visionary approaches necessary to advance research around complex chemical exposures and health; a few examples include their programs and initiatives on assay development and screening technology, chemistry technology, Tox21, and the tissue chip for drug screening program.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Long-time proponent of the exposome, David Balshaw, has been a key player in the development of the NIEHS Exposome Workshop held in January 2015, the NIEHS Exposure Science and the Exposome webinar series, the development of the Children’s Health and Exposure Analysis Resource and many other initiatives focused on the enhanced understanding of complex exposures. Dr. Balshaw also serves a role in overseeing NIEHS programs that support the development of new and emerging technologies to improve exposure and risk assessment.
Personal monitoring devices, machine learning, and big data have increasingly appeared as trendy buzzwords but for Gari Clifford these are the tools and strategies to improve our understanding of health. Dr. Clifford’s research focuses on developing ways to use intelligent signal processing and machine learning through tools such as mobile phones to the cloud, physiological modeling to increase accuracy and access in healthcare systems and development of scalable mHealth technologies that utilize mobile phones and low costs sensors along with big data and crowd-sourcing approaches.
North Carolina State University
The Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD) is a publicly availably resource that provides manually curated data on chemical-gene/protein interactions, chemical-disease and gene-disease relationships along with functional and pathway data. The CTD is a tool to aid researchers in developing hypotheses about mechanisms underlying environmentally influenced diseases. Allan Peter Davis leads the biocuration project at CTD and has extensive knowledge of its resources and ways researchers can best utilize the CTD for their research questions.
Johns Hopkins University
The advancement of high-throughput in vitro and in silico methods is key to understanding the complexity of the thousands of chemical exposures faced today. Thomas Hartung has been spearheading efforts to comprehensively define pathways of toxicity (the Human Toxome) as well as to advance clinical and experimental approaches for developmental neurotoxicity research based on genomics and metabolomics. Some of his most recent work has been focused on the development of “mini-brains” for research and drug testing on neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, etc. and on the creation of a searchable toxicity database containing information on nearly 10,000 chemicals.
University of California-Los Angeles
Michael Jerrett is an expert in measuring external exposures using Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Epidemiology. His research focuses on characterizing population exposures to air pollution and the built environment and the distribution of exposures across socioeconomic groups. Dr. Jerrett has continually worked to advance environmental exposure science and develop strategies to improve our ability to assess the health effects of environmental exposures.
High-resolution metabolomics offers a window into the environmental metabolome for exposome-level characterization. Dean Jones is a leader in the field of environmental metabolomics, particularly the development of methods to both expand the number of metabolic features that can be detected in a single drop of blood to the development of methods to detect low-level unknown exposures. As a long-time proponent of the exposome, Dr. Jones’ research group continues to push the advancement of mass spectrometry methods and the computational tools necessary to extract data on 20,000+ features from one biological sample.
Shuzhao Li combines computational developments with metabolomics and systems biology. He developed Mummichog, an open-source software program that uses genome-scale metabolic models to allow for pathway/network analysis of untargeted metabolomics. His primary research focuses on the analysis and integration of omics data and applying quantitative and systems modeling to personalized and precision medicine efforts.
Agilent Technologies and Johns Hopkins University
Mass spectrometry methods are key to detecting and quantifying chemical exposures. Anthony Macherone is an expert in mass spectrometry-based methods and the development and application of methods for exposome characterization. Integrating mass spectrometry data with other clinical and environmental monitoring data has also been a focus of his work. As co-coordinator of the exposomics interest group for the American Society of Mass Spectrometry, Dr. Macherone maintains a primary role in the discussion and development of best practices for characterization of small molecules in biological samples.
Johns Hopkins University
Alexandra Maertens is a post-doctoral associate at the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing. Her recent work has focused on using correlation networks to analyse –omics data, and using high-thoughput, multi-omics approaches to understanding how chemical perturbations affect the wiring diagram of the cell. Dr. Maertens is an integral part of the Evidence Base Toxicology Collaboration, working on designing an ontology to classify reproductive and developmental data to facilitate systematic reviews. She is also the lead of the Green Toxicology Initiative, which seeks to use a computational, systems biology approach to allow R&D chemists to design more benign alternatives to hazardous chemicals.
Gary Miller directs the HERCULES Exposome Research Center and CHEAR Laboratory Hub at Emory University. Dr. Miller is a leader in the exposome conversation, including promoting the expansion of the definition to include the biological response. Through his own research program on the role of environmental and genetic factors involved in neurological disease to the direction of two environmental health research centers focused on the exposome, he promotes a long-term vision of defining the exposome through understanding complex exposures and their impact on health.
Harvard Medical School
Chirag Patel published the first environmental-wide association study (EWAS) and has been a pioneer in developing computational approaches to capture the interaction of genetics, environment and health through population-level data. His recent work demonstrating an approach for genome x exposome analysis provides a window into understanding key exposures that matter to health at the population level. The continual development of computational approaches allows researchers to ask new questions by utilizing the wealth of big data available through electronic health medical records, epidemiological cohorts, personal exposure monitoring and genetic information.
Kurt Pennell’s research focuses on key questions in environmental toxicology including the relationship between chronic exposure to persistent organic pollutants and human health, oxidative stress and neurodegenerative disease and neuroactive steroids and seizure frequency during pregnancy. In addition, his research focuses on the development and testing of in situ remediation technologies, fate and transport of engineered nanomaterials and more recently the development and use of multiplexed analyte analysis.
Amazon Web Services
As the datasets for exposome research continue to grow, cloud computing offers a solution for managing the computational demands of these analyses efficiently. With the explosion of omics technologies, new computational resources for analyzing and integrating omics data are key to affordable and efficient use of these large data streams.
University of California-Berkeley
Biomarkers of exposure are key to understanding whether a given external exposure can be detected in the body and the potential biological impact of that given exposure. Steve Rappaport has contributed significantly to the development of the exposome concept. He has extensive experience in exposure biology with significant contributions utilizing adductomics as a way of characterizing exposure-response relationships. Dr. Rappaport is also currently performing untargeted analysis of adducts in human serum samples from the EXPOsOMICS project based in Europe.
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
The HEALS (Health and Environment-wide Associations based on Large population Surveys) project is one of the largest research projects in Europe on the environment and health. Denis Sarigiannis co-leads the HEALS project and provides his expertise on the integration of omics data with biochemical biomonitoring in order to assess the exposome at an individual level. Through the use of advanced bioinformatic tools, the HEALS project aims to understand the interaction and impact of genetic and environmental factors on health.
Harvard Medical School
Caenorhabditis elegans is an ideal model for high-throughput assessment of chemical exposures and aging processes on a well-characterized genetic background. Nick Stroustrup created the Lifespan Machine as part of his doctoral dissertation work; it is an automated system for collecting C. elegans lifespan data that combines modified flatbed scanners with custom image processing and data validation software. Dr. Stroustrup’s current research focuses on the utilization of these techniques to study both the dynamics and genetic and environmental determinants of aging in C. elegans.
Environmental Protection Agency
Physiologically-based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) models provide a powerful technique for understanding human biomarker data as it relates to exposures. Cecilia Tan is an EPA scientist with particular expertise in utilizing PBPK models to determine exposure levels and potential human health outcomes. Computational approaches offer a way of expanding our understanding of the chemical space with high-throughput approaches. Through pairing exposure studies with PBPK modeling, she is able to contribute estimates of potential exposures to ultimately aid in reducing exposures to harmful chemicals.
High-throughput omics data requires sophisticated statistical and data mining techniques. Formally trained in bioinformatics, Karan Uppal has developed multiple R packages for processing metabolomics data to improve feature detection for low abundance and variable chemicals including apLCMS, XCMS, and xMSanalyzer. He also has expertise in integrating omics data to help identify network structures.
Georgia Institute of Technology
Systems biology uses computational and mathematical approaches to understand metabolic pathways and biochemical systems. Eberhard Voit has been a leader in the development of the discipline of systems biology, literally writing the first textbook on the topic. His research focuses on the continual development and application of these tools in experimental systems in order to better understand the complex interplay of genes, proteins and metabolites and related healthy or diseased phenotypes.
Doug Walker has experience in the development of analytical methods for quantifying environmental pollutants and mass spectrometry-based chemical profiling techniques. His current research focuses on the integration of high-resolution metabolomics, environmental exposure and health outcome data in both animal models and human populations. One of his long-term goals is to develop high-performance metabolomics platforms for universal and cost-effective surveillance of chemical exposures.
Environmental Protection Agency
Through John Wambaugh’s work with the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Center for Computational Toxicology, he has helped lead the development of predictive models for exposure analysis for the ExpoCast project. ExpoCast offers a strategy to help prioritize which chemicals should be prioritized for future research studies at EPA. Dr. Wambaugh contributes to a range of other projects integrating and modeling complex exposure datasets to answer questions about human health risk. Computational approaches such as these offer incredibly powerful tools for exposome research.