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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Awards Vala Sciences a Second ToxCast Contract

Published 30 July, 2014

Vala Sciences, an industry leader in biological discovery and safety assessment, has won their second contract worth over $10 million with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Vala Sciences was recently awarded a second contract from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This new contract was awarded for the company’s expertise in developmental toxicity models, including tests designed to assess the effect of chemical compounds on neuron formation and the formation of connections between neurons (synapses), which are critical for brain function. Inhibition of neurodifferentiation and synapse formation by environmental pollutants likely contributes to a variety of disorders including mental retardation, autism, Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s Disease. Vala’s assays enable compounds to be tested on human neurons without using animals.
The contract awards up to $10,637,000 to study the morphological and physiological defects that take place during prenatal or postnatal life, resulting from environmental toxins. As part of the ToxCast program, this funding will be used to further our collective knowledge and gain additional experience towards understanding differing toxicity levels and their effects on the developing human system. The project was awarded based on the team’s biology expertise and their use of novel high content screening capabilities.
Vala Sciences is one of 4 companies to be awarded contracts to participate in the most recent phase of ToxCast research. Overall, Vala Sciences will test the toxicity levels for up to 10,000 chemical compounds from the EPA. For their work on the ToxCast program, so far, Vala received an “Exceptional“ rating from the EPA for all aspects of performance.
The new project targets additional information on how a compound's toxicity profile can relate to the morphological and physiological defects that take place during prenatal and postnatal development. Special areas of interest are as follows: neural crest formation and migration (forming the skeleton and cartilage of the body), palatogenesis (the roof of the mouth), neurodevelopment and urogenital morphogenesis (nervous system and urinary/genitalia changes), which include both male and female reproductive organs, among some others.
“Historically, determining toxicity profiles would require extensive animal testing", stated Dr. Patrick McDonough, Vala’s Vice President of Biology, "but as the EPA strives to reduce the number of animals tested, Vala Sciences is helping to lead the charge by shifting towards more technology-based assessments which utilize cell, organ or organism culture systems with complex and diverse biological capacities, in order to measure chemical effects on critical pathways, processes and phenotypes relevant to human and ecological toxicity”.

About Vala Sciences

Vala Sciences is a specialty biotechnology company bringing to bear the combination of Biology, Engineering and Computer Science to deliver automated, high throughput toxicity assessment of drug candidates as an integral part of early stage drug discovery. Vala’s proprietary pro arrhythmia kinetic imaging assay is a rapid, low cost, multi-channel screen that can significantly reduce the cost, and speed the process, of cardiac safety assessment, limitations of which cause almost 35% of all drug failures and market withdrawals that cost the industry about $2.5 B per year.


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