Start-up for more reliable identification and classification of hazardous substances

june 22, 2015

ToxGenSolutions B.V. is the newest spin-off company of Maastricht University and the Maastricht University Medical Center (UM/MUMC+). The company was founded in response to the promising research results of the Netherlands Toxicogenomics Center, led by Professor Jos Kleinjans. ToxGenSolutions aims to develop gene-expression profiles that can accurately identify the toxicity of unknown substances. ‘This technology makes it possible to identify and classify hazardous substances in an economically responsible way, without using laboratory animals,’ says Erwin Roggen, the CEO of the new company.
‘ToxGenSolutions will initially focus on gene-expression profiles for genotoxicity, immunotoxicity and developmental toxicity because studies have shown promising results in these areas,’ explains Roggen. ‘This technology not only determines whether a substance is toxic, it also gives you a blueprint to explain why the substance is toxic or non-toxic. This is something that can’t be achieved using laboratory animals,’ he adds.

‘It’s been a great scientific adventure,’ says Kleinjans, senior scientific adviser at ToxGenSolutions, ‘to make good on our promises and to transform our large-scale toxicogenomic research into several tests that can accurately identify the chemical risks for people. Successfully marketing these tests will be an equally impressive adventure.’

When human cells or human tissue is exposed to substances, changes are made that can be seen at the genetic level (genomics). Genomics is being widely used for pathway analysis and biomarker identification, which results in far fewer lab animals being used. The research results of the Netherlands Toxicogenomics Center have shown that toxic substances can be more accurately identified and classified by comparing their gene profiles to existing toxicity profiles. This concept, however, has not yet been sufficiently implemented in current strategies for risk evaluation. ‘ToxGenSolutions considers it its mission to increase the health and safety of people and the environment,’ says Roggen.

ToxGenSolutions is partly based on a number of exclusive international licenses and patents from UM/MUMC+. The company recently received a PreSeed grant from the South Limburg valorisation programme. The PreSeed fund was established with the support of the Ministry of Economic Affairs to financially support young entrepreneurs in marketing the knowledge of Limburg’s knowledge institutes. ‘The licences and start-up grants will help ToxGenSolutions continue to develop new test methods,’ says Dr Henri Theunissen, head of the Maastricht Valorisation Center. ‘We’re proud of this new Maastricht start-up and will continue to support the company in its efforts to create added value for society based on their scientific findings.’

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