Important legal notice
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Health - Taking the temperature of European healthcare
“To create new and better methods to test chemicals for toxicity effects on human health without using live animals.”

The problem

In modern life, we are exposed to a huge variety of chemicals, both natural and synthetic. It is crucial to test these chemicals for any toxic effects, to ensure they can be produced, distributed and used in safety. There is great pressure to reduce the use of animals in toxicity testing, both for ethical reasons and because animal studies are not always the best indicators of toxicity in humans. One option is to use tests on cultured cells. Although some such ‘cell-based assays’ have been developed, they have not yet proved as useful as was hoped. Developing better methods is a priority.

TOXdrop  Better chemical safety tests using cells – not animals


TOXdrop will develop innovative ‘cell on chip’ technology to screen chemicals for toxicity, using cultured cells within tiny ‘nanodrops’ of culture fluid.

The project will:

  • Develop a new type of substrate for microchips that will allow toxicity testing of gaseous, liquid and solid chemicals within thousands of the cellular nanodrops on each chip
  • Create software for the collection and analysis of results
  • Target the new technology initially on three areas of toxicology regarded as bottle-necks in risk assessment
  • Explore with scientific partners and SMEs the possibility of commercialising the technology through a new spin-off company

Contribution to policy development:

  • Will complement efforts to establish the new Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) legislation on chemical safety in the EU
  • Developing techniques to promote the common policy goal of ‘reducing, refining and replacing’ the use of live animals for chemical toxicity testing (the ‘3 Rs’ policy)
  • Assisting the development of policies promoting the standardisation of strategies for screening chemicals for toxicity

Project deliverables

  • Set of defined needs for development of cell on chip technology – January 2005-June 2005
  • Prototype cell on chip technology for testing the toxicology strategy – June 2005-
    December 2005
  • Refined and tested cell on chip technology suitable for commercial exploitation – December 2005-December 2006
  • Reports from expert focus groups and research into the potential of the new technology –
    by November 2006
  • Recommendations for toxicity testing of chemicals using cell on chip systems –
    by December 2006


  • Information to relevant institutions, including the European Commission, on the progress, potential and limitations of TOXdrop technology
  • Presentations at conferences and seminars on toxicology and alternatives to animal experimentation
  • Reports on ‘TOXdrop Potential’ and ‘TOXdrop Market Position’ from focus groups of experts from industry and research

Technical information

Project acronym: TOXdrop
Project’s official full title: Highly parallel cell culture in nanodrops, a new format for high content cell based toxicity screening on Cell on Chips
Research priority: 2.2. Public health issues, including epidemiology contributing to disease prevention and responses to emerging rare and communicable diseases, allergies, procedures for secure blood and organ donations, non-animal test methods
Specific webpage:
Proposal/contract no: 513698
Start date: 31/12/2004
Kick off meeting: February 2005
Completion date: 30/12/2006
European Commission scientific officer: Beatrice Lucaroni,

Name: Commissariat à l'énergie atomique
Abbreviated name: CEA
Address: Life Science Division, laboratoire Biopuces, Bat 4020, 17 rue des martyrs,
Cedex 9 38054 Grenoble
Country: France
Tel: +33 4 38 78 65 91
Fax: +33 4 38 78 59 17


Name: INSERM Rennes
Abbreviated name: INSERM
Country: France

Name: Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1
Abbreviated name: UCBL
Country: France

Name: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne
Abbreviated name: EPFL
Country: Switzerland

Abbreviated name: IMSTAR
Country: France

Name: TASCON Gesellschaft für Oberflächen und Materialcharakterisierung mbH
Abbreviated name: TASCON GmbH
Country: Germany

Name: VITAMIB Sarl
Abbreviated name: VITAMIB
Country: France

Abbreviated name: JRC
Country: Belgium