Environmental and (eco)toxicological Omics and Epigenetics: Science, Technology and Regulatory Applications

Our keynote speakers

Mark Blaxter from The University of Edinburgh, UK
Monday 12 September
Opening Keynote

 Mark Blaxter is a zoologist-turned-genomics researcher, working in the area of evolutionary genomics. He has been based at the University of Edinburgh for the last 20 years, where he is Professor of Evolutionary Genomics. He is particularly interested in the genomics of "neglected phyla" - including nematodes, tardigrades, molluscs, arthropods - and of their interactions with symbionts and (in the case of parasites) hosts. He has been driving the application of genomics technologies in the environmental and ecological sciences, and is head of the Edinburgh Node of the NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility. His current research interests include comparative genomics of nematodes, the effects of asexuality on genome evolution, assembly curation for environmental genomes, the genetics of handedness, the genomics of plant pathogens, and software development to support new approaches in environmental genomics.
 
Gipsi Lima Mendez from University of Leuven / Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), Belgium
Monday 12 September
Session 1: Microbial genomics and metagenomics 

 Gipsi Lima-Mendez is a trained biochemist with a PhD in bioinformatics. Her interests are in applying/developing computational methods to gain insights into the mechanisms underlying the evolution and functioning of biological systems, ranging from cellular processes to entire ecosystems. She uses statistical analyses, networks and classification methods to integrate different layers of biological information: genotypes –(meta)genomes, gene expression –(meta)transcriptomes, environmental conditions, etc. and have applied these approaches to studies on the evolution and ecology of mobile genetic elements and to the prediction and discovery of ecological interactions in ocean plankton communities.

 

Dick Roelofs from VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Monday 12 September
Session 2: Evolutionary and ecological omics

 Dick Roelofs is associate professor Molecular Ecology at VU University Amsterdam and holds a MSc degree in Agricultural Sciences with specialization in plant molecular genetics at Wageningen University. He became interested in molecular evolution during his PhD project at the University of Amsterdam. After a post-doc project on genetics of RNA interference, he joined Promega life sciences to develop new technologies for genome research. In 2002 he switched back to academia at Ecological Science, VU Amsterdam, where he leads the Ecogenomics team focusing ongenome analysis of soil invertebrates. In particular, he applies transcriptomics analysis as mechanistic tool to assess soil quality and to study genetic adaptation to environmental stress. He participates in national and international collaborative projects trying to assess and improve life support functions of the soil. He teaches courses in Evolutionary Genetics and Environmental Genomics and co-authored the first textbook on Ecological Genomics.

 Mark Viant from University of Birmingham, UK
Tuesday 13 September
Session 3: (Eco)toxicological omics

 Mark Viant is a Professor of Metabolomics in the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham, UK, and Director of both the national NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility - Metabolomics and Phenome Centre Birmingham. He is the Immediate Past President of the International Metabolomics Society. Mark’s research interests encompass the development of optimised analytical and computational workflows for high-throughput mass spectrometry based metabolomics and the application of these technologies to investigate the metabolic pathways underlying toxicity and adverse outcome pathways. He is particularly fascinated by chemical and nanomaterial toxicology in the freshwater model organism Daphnia, and the translation of metabolomics based ‘discovery’ research into mechanistically based tools for chemical safety and environmental diagnostics. Mark has co-authored over 150 publications and his work has been recognised by the award of one of two 2015 Lifetime Honorary Fellowships of the International Metabolomics Society “In recognition of his pioneering work in environmental metabolomics and for his sustained service to the Society. His vision revolutionized the Society’s operations and reputation, expanding its reach to all corners of the world.”

 

Brian Herb from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, USA
Tuesday 13 September
Session 3: (Eco)toxicological omics 
 
 Brian Herb is currently a researcher in the Center for Epigenetics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He completed his PhD in the lab of Andrew Feinberg studying the molecular role that epigenetic mechanisms play in development and behavioral plasticity. His graduate work provided the first evidence of reversible epigenetic regulation of behavior in any species and discovered a resetting of epigenetic levels during honeybee development. Brian’s work with honeybees earned him the Martin and Carol Macht Young Investigator Research Award and helped establish DNA methylation as a critical mechanism for caste differentiation and task switching in honeybees. His current interests include the use of high-throughput next-generation sequencing coupled with novel bioinformatics to understand the complex interactions between genetic, epigenetic and transcriptional changes underlying the evolution of distinct behavioral states.

  

Juliette Leger from Brunel University London, UK 
Wednesday 14 September 
Session 4: Epigenetics in ecology and (eco)toxicology: Science and technology

 Juliette Legler is Professor of Toxicology and Environmental Health at the College of Health and Life Sciences, Brunel University London. She is also leader of the Environment and Health Theme, a multidisciplinary group of about 60 researchers within Brunel University’s Institute for Environment, Health and Societies.  Prior to joining Brunel University London in January 2016, she was employed for over 14 years at the Institute for Environm ental Studies, VU University Amsterdam, where she was Deputy Head of the Department of Chemistry and Biology. From 2014-2015 she served as Director of the SENSE Research School for Socio-Economic and Natural Sciences of the Environment, a joint venture of the environmental research institutes of ten Dutch universities. Voted the VU’s Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences Teacher of the Year in 2012, she has taught environmental toxicology at the BSc and MSc level and coordinated the VU’s MSc program in Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology. Her research focuses on the molecular mechanisms of toxicity of chemicals and the effects of chemical exposure on humans and wildlife. An author of about 100 scientific articles and book chapters, she is particularly interested in understanding the role of epigenetics in the long term health impacts of early life exposure to environmental chemicals. Juliette is a European registered toxicologist and was elected Vice President of the Netherlands Society of Toxicology in June 2015
 
Joseph Shaw from University of Indiana, USA  
Wednesday 14 September 
Session 4: Epigenetics in ecology and (eco)toxicology: Science and technology 

Joseph R. Shaw is an Associate Professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, and holds adjunct appointments in their School of Public Health and Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics. Shaw is recognized as an Outstanding Environmental Scientist by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and most recently was appointed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Scientific Advisory Panel for his work investigating environmental conditions including toxic exposures, genome structure, and their influence on individuals and populations. His research group seeks to discover critical, specific, and causative adaptive mechanisms resulting from complex environmental exposures. His work embraces new high-throughput molecular techniques and couples these with evolutionary theory, statistical analysis and bioinformatics in order to integrate environmental-response across levels of biological organization. Current research in his laboratory focuses on (i) associating variation in genome structure with adaptations to extreme environments within and between populations; (ii) identifying the mechanisms of actions of environmental and chemical stress, especially metals, and (iii) elucidating the genetic and epigenetic underpinnings of mutations and establishing their role evolved tolerance.  

 
Ben Brown from University of California, USA
Wednesday 14 September
Session 4: Epigenetics in ecology and (eco)toxicology: Science and technology

 Prof. Brown is the inaugural Chair of Environmental Bioinformatics at the University of Birmingham, UK, and the Department Head for Molecular Ecosystem Dynamics in the Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA. He leads integrative analysis for the Consortium for Environmental Omics and Toxicology (CEOT), and is involved in the Microbes to Biomes Initiative, leading analysis for a project aimed at understanding host-microbiome interactions in adaption to environmental challenges. He views exposure biology as a powerful tool to study complex systems. In genetics, models are perturbed one gene or locus at a time. In exposure biology, exogenous stressors perturb entire pathways or organ systems, altering the metabolic landscape and the expression of hundreds of genes. His research program aims to establish exposure biology as a foundational science, viewing toxicology as systems-level genetics, with the potential to play a major role in the elucidation of processes ranging from development to speciation. His labs measure adaptive and toxic responses using multi-omics modalities to provide new insights into levels of biological organization extending beyond individual cells or organisms, linking the biology of the nucleus to ecosystem dynamics. This work is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, and the National Environmental Research Council. 

Joëlle Rüegg from Swedish Toxicology Sciences Research Center, Sweden 
Wednesday 14 September
Session 5: Transgenerational and epigenetic effects of chemicals

 Joëlle Rüegg is senior researcher at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and at the Swedish toxicology science research center Swetox, a collaboration bet een eleven Swedish Universities. Joëlle holds MScs in Biochemistry and Neuroscience from the University of Zurich and the University of Edinburgh, and a PhD “summa cum laude” in Biochemistry from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Prior to joining Swetox 2014, she held postdoc positions at Karolinska Institutet and Axcentua Pharmaceuticals AB in Stockholm (2005-2009) and an independent researcher position at the University of Basel (2010-2013). At Swetox, she is head of a research team comprising four students and two postdoctoral fellows. Her research focuses on deciphering molecular mechanisms underlying epigenetic effects of endocrine disruptive chemicals to gather deeper understanding of how these chemicals affect developmental processes and human health. Further, she is using these molecular insights for developing methods to test chemicals for their potential to induce epigenetic changes. Joëlle’s research is embedded into larger national and international collaborative projects, including the Swedish EDC-2020 project funded by the Swedish Research Council Formas and the Horizon 2020 research and innovation action EDC-MixRisk, for which she is deputy coordinator.    
 
Adelheid Lempradl from Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Freiburg, Germany
Wednesday 14 September
Session 5: Transgenerational and epigenetic effects of chemicals

 Adelheid Lempradl is a trained microbiologist with a PhD in structural biology. During her first Post Doc in the Lab of Leonie Ringrose at the IMBA in Vienna she started working on epigenetic mechanisms using Drosophila melanogaster as model organism. At IMBA she investigated the role of non-coding RNAs in epigenetic mechanisms in flies. Currently she is at the Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg in the group of J. Andrew Pospisilik. Adelheid Lempradl kept with Drosophila as model organism but now focuses on epigenetic inheritance of metabolic traits.  She showed that just two days of increased dietary sugar in the father changes genome output of his offspring, inducing obesity. Having established a model for intergenerational inheritance Adelheid Lempradl now wants to investigate intergenerational effects of environmental chemicals in Drosophila. 
 
 
Peter Kille from Cardiff University, UK
Thursday 15 September
Session 6: Epigenetics in risk assessment: Academia, industry and regulator perspectives
 
Alan Poole from ECETOC, Belgium
Thursday 15 September
Session 6: Epigenetics in risk assessment: Academia, industry and regulator perspectives

Alan Poole earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from the University of Cardiff, Doctor of Philosophy from University of Surrey and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists. He worked for the UK Medical Research Council studying the modes of action of pulmonary lung carcinogenesis in particular mesothelioma before moving to Smith Kline and French to lead a scientific team involved  in preclinical development of ethical pharmaceuticals. He was later employed by Dow Chemical in Switzerland where he worked for over 20 years addressing safety of industrial chemicals during which time he participated in many industry and governmental activities. He has published a book on toxicology as well contributing chapters to several others. He has published widely in the scientific literature and contributed to various meetings and symposia on toxicology. 

 
 
 
Gilbert Schönfelder from German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Germany
Thursday 15 September
Session 6: Epigenetics in risk assessment: Academia, industry and regulator perspectives                                                                                           

 Professor Dr. Gilbert Schönfelder is since October 2012, the head of the Department “Experimental Toxicology and ZEBET” at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and appointed full professor of Experimental Toxicology and Alternatives to Animal Testing at the Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany. In addition, he is responsible for the "German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Bf3R)". He is licensed to practice medicine and has qualifications as a medical specialist in pharmacology and toxicology, as well as in clinical pharmacology. Professor Schönfelder main research interests are alternatives to animal testings, experimental toxicology, endocrinology, reproductive and developmental toxicology. He is working on strategies for toxicological assessments. His scientific work is published in international highly ranked journals, i.e. Nature, Nature Medicine, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, The EMBO Journal, EMBO Reports, Circulation Research and Environmental Health Perspectives. Professor Schönfelder has a long teaching career in toxicology, pharmacology, clinical pharmacology, and environmental medicine.