EU Science Hub

Advancing the Adverse Outcome Pathway Framework – An International Horizon Scanning Approach

Our ability to conduct whole-organism toxicity tests to understand chemical safety has been outpaced by the synthesis of new chemicals for a wide variety of commercial applications. As a result, scientists and risk assessors are turning to mechanistically based studies to increase efficiencies in chemical risk assessment and making greater use of in vitro and in silico methods to evaluate potential environmental and human health hazards. In this context, the adverse outcome pathway (AOP) framework has gained traction in regulatory science because it offers an efficient and effective means for capturing available knowledge describing the linkage between mechanistic data and the apical toxicity end points required for regulatory assessments. A number of international activities have focused on AOP development and various applications to regulatory decision-making. These initiatives have prompted dialogue between research scientists and regulatory communities to consider how best to use the AOP framework. Although expert-facilitated discussions and AOP development have been critical in moving the science of AOPs forward, it was recognized that a survey of the broader scientific and regulatory communities would aid in identifying current limitations while guiding future initiatives for the AOP framework. To that end, a global horizon scanning exercise was conducted to solicit questions concerning the challenges or limitations that must be addressed to realize the full potential of the AOP framework in research and regulatory decision-making. The questions received fell into several broad topical areas: AOP networks, quantitative AOPs, collaboration on and communication of AOP knowledge, AOP discovery and development, chemical and cross-species extrapolation, exposure/toxicokinetics considerations, and AOP applications. Expert ranking was then used to prioritize questions for each category, where 4 broad themes emerged that could help inform and guide future AOP research and regulatory initiatives. In addition, frequently asked questions were identified and addressed by experts in the field. Answers to frequently asked questions will aid in addressing common misperceptions and will allow for clarification of AOP topics. The need for this type of clarification was highlighted with surprising frequency by our question submitters, indicating that improvements are needed in communicating the AOP framework among the scientific and regulatory communities. Overall, horizon scanning engaged the global scientific community to help identify key questions surrounding the AOP framework and guide the direction of future initiatives.