Superfund Research Program
Northeast SRP Researchers Gather to Discuss Research and Opportunities for Collaboration
On April 4 and 5, SRP researchers from institutions across the northeast gathered in Boston for the Northeast Superfund Research Program (SRP) Meeting. The event was hosted by the Northeastern University PROTECT SRP Center and co-sponsored by SRP Centers from Boston University, Brown University, Columbia University, Dartmouth College, and the University of Pennsylvania.
The meeting began with an overview of the six northeast centers. Subsequent sessions focused on regionally important topics, such as reducing exposure to arsenic in drinking water, SRP-community interactions, the use of big data in environmental science research, and perspectives on the health risks of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances. The sessions were very well received and resulted in engaging dialogue. A reception and poster session provided SRP trainees the opportunity to present their research and to network with others in the northeast SRP community.
The event concluded with a brainstorming session on how the northeast SRP Centers can engage in future collaborative activities. Ideas included offering workshops on environmental health topics, holding informal lightning talks, and planning science cafés where trainees and researchers can communicate their findings to the public.
Directors of the six northeastern SRP Centers plan to hold this meeting annually to share ideas and promote regional collaborations.
SRP Grantees Present at NAS Workshop
Four Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees were involved in the Advances in Causal Understanding for Human Health Risk-Based Decision Making workshop, held March 6 - 7 in Washington, D.C. The workshop explored how modern advances in bioinformatics can be incorporated into human health decision making. Hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) Standing Committee on Emerging Science for Environmental Health Decisions (ESEHD) and sponsored by NIEHS, the event opened with remarks by ESEHD co-chair Kim Boekelheide, Ph.D., from the Brown University SRP Center.
Novel bioinformatics and molecular approaches have advanced our understanding of how exposure to environmental agents influences pathways and networks that are involved in disease at the molecular level. However, since public health risk assessments rarely consider these molecular insights sufficient to establish causality, regulators still rely primarily on traditional endpoints from animal studies.
During a session on case studies of current approaches for determining causality, University of California, Berkeley SRP Center Director Martyn Smith, Ph.D., discussed key characteristics of carcinogens that provide a basis for an objective, systematic approach for identifying and evaluating mechanistic data. Michigan State University SRP Center Director Norbert Kaminski, Ph.D., participated in a simulated debate regarding the use of human cells in toxicity testing. In the debate, Kaminski was tasked with challenging the traditional use of animal models and presenting the advantages of using human cells.
The NAS workshop brought together leading environmental health experts, including toxicologists, statisticians, sociologists, epidemiologists, regulators, and others to discuss the current thinking around causal models and how to move these ideas forward in decision making to better protect human health.
Airlift Environmental Participates in Commercialization Accelerator Program
Superfund Research Program (SRP) small business awardee Airlift Environmental LLC was recently accepted into the National Institutes of Health Commercialization Accelerator Program (CAP) and participated in a FeedForward session March 16 - 17 in Washington, D.C. FeedForward provides critical industry and customer feedback on each participant's product and commercialization strategy.
The competitive CAP program helps some of the agency's most promising small business awardees transition their SRP Small Business Innovation Research / Small Business Technology Transfer Research (SBIR/STTR)-funded technologies into the marketplace. CAP requires significant effort on the part of the small business, including the creation of a commercialization strategy tool kit, but provides selected participants with individualized assistance to achieve market readiness. This includes individual mentoring and consulting sessions, training workshops, and access to domain experts both remotely and through in-person events. SRP Program Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D., participated as an onsite mentor in the FeedForward session.
Airlift Environmental, in partnership with Steve Comfort, Ph.D., from the University of Nebraska, received an SRP-funded STTR grant to develop slow-release oxidant-paraffin candles that dissolve and capture contaminants in groundwater. This technology provides an efficient, cost-effective method to clean up groundwater contaminated with trichloroethylene, as shown in a recent five-year performance review. As a CAP participant, they are working to develop a solid plan for commercializing their SRP-funded technology.