Superfund Research Program
UA SRP Center Communicates Findings at Community Forum
University of Arizona Superfund Research Program (UA SRP) Center Community Engagement Core Leader Karletta Chief, Ph.D., recently updated the impacted community about the Center's work in the aftermath of the 2015 Gold King Mine spill. Chief, along with collaborators from the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency, spoke at the Shiprock Chapter House about the Center’s progress over the last two years.
After 3 million gallons of metal-polluted water, which included lead and arsenic, was released into the Animas and San Juan Rivers, UA SRP Center researchers sprang into action to inform the surrounding community about the extent of the contamination. The UA team also initiated studies in response to concerns about potential harm to the environment and human health.
The two groups collected and analyzed hundreds of samples over time, including water, sediment, and fish tissue. Their results show that metals in the river, wells, and irrigation canals continue to be below EPA standards for drinking water and agricultural use. The team is awaiting final results for fish and sediments, and they intend to release results in the fall from health assessments conducted on 123 participants.
This information is particularly important to tribal community members along the impacted river, who have been concerned about the safety of using the water for personal use, as well as for watering crops and livestock.
SRP Participates in Small Business Innovation Conference
Superfund Research Program (SRP) Health Scientist Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D., was a part of the NIEHS delegation to the National Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) / Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Conference May 15 - 17 in Washington, D.C. The SBIR/STTR conference was held jointly with the TechConnect World Innovation Conference, an annual event designed to accelerate commercialization of innovative products.
As part of the program, Dibakar Bhattacharyya, Ph.D., an SRP grantee at the University of Kentucky, spoke about his work to develop advanced water membrane technologies. He discussed how these membranes can be used to capture metals and degrade other pollutants to reduce contamination of aquifers and provide safe drinking water. The technical program highlighted new tools and devices from industrial, government, and academic laboratories worldwide.
The conference provides a way for technology developers to learn about the small business research grant programs offered by 11 federal agencies. In addition to presentations about the SBIR/STTR application process, the conference featured one-on-one meetings between federal representatives and potential applicants seeking insight and tips for successful applications. As a participant in the meetings, Henry provided guidance about SRP's small business research program, which fosters commercialization of technologies, products, and devices related to detecting or cleaning up hazardous substances.
SRP Highlighted at Data Science Symposium
Superfund Research Program (SRP) representatives provided the environmental health perspective on big data at an NIH data science symposium May 16 - 18 in Cincinnati. The symposium was hosted by the NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) and Library of Integrated Network-Based Cellular Signatures (LINCS) Data Coordination and Integration Center.
The BD2K-LINCS Data Science Symposium brought together scientists from academia, industry, and government to talk about using large datasets to improve drug development, biomedicine, and environmental health research.
SRP Health Scientist Administrator Michelle Heacock, Ph.D., presented NIEHS efforts to understand what people are exposed to in the environment and whether those exposures affect our health. She discussed such issues as the timing of exposure and the organ or tissue that may be affected by it.
She also discussed how big data may be used to estimate how the body responds to multiple chemicals. For example, she described the NIEHS-funded Comparative Toxicogenomics Database (CTD), a compilation of manually curated data about interactions between chemicals, genes, and diseases. With the CTD, researchers can identify different chemicals that lead to changes to genes and proteins in the body. By integrating these data with information about molecular pathways, they can also identify whether these changes are linked to human diseases.
Heacock also provided an overview of the SRP and described how diverse types of SRP data may be used together. She encouraged researchers to leverage existing data and to share their data with other scientists.
Stefano Monti, Ph.D., a professor at the Boston University (BU) School of Public Health and a BU SRP Center grantee, discussed his work using large datasets to screen for chemicals that may cause cancer. He highlighted his collaboration with the NIEHS National Toxicology Program using computational models to predict long-term cancer risk based on data from short-term exposure studies. This project is a step toward simpler and cheaper tests to screen chemicals for cancer risk.
Monti and Heacock also participated in a panel that focused on improving the use of big data in environmental health science.