Inventing toxicology of tomorrow – together we can go further
Interview with Dr José Cotovio
Dr José Cotovio
Director of Development of Predictive Methods and Models Department, L’Oréal Research & Innovation


Why is toxicology changing today?
There is a worldwide consensus in the community of toxicologists, industry, and the scientific or political community, to reinvent so-called regulatory toxicology, which evaluates the safety of ingredients and raw materials. Toxicology as practiced up to now, had served consumer safety well. However, it was not fully predictive. In European pharmacy, removing a drug from the market is highly prejudicial – primarily to those exposed, but also to society in general. The economic and societal costs are considerable.

What role does regulation play in banning animal tests?
Once again, there is a consensus that animals must be avoided to be able to predict human health. Regulations concern Europe and cosmetics, but the Americans have included a ban on animal testing in their 2007 roadmap in all their industries including pharmaceuticals, chemistry and cosmetics. Added to the ethical issues is a growing awareness of the importance of predictability: current methods are too costly and take too long. Developing a drug takes a billion dollars. Predictive Evaluation needs to give new impetus to industrial research. New toxicology, animal-free toxicology would enable faster, less costly and more effective innovation.

Why haven’t we done it before?
For years, everyone worked on their own: scientists believed that, before the fact, understanding biological mechanisms would be sufficient to understanding toxicology; on the other hand, regulatory toxicologists stuck to established methods on tests they conducted after the fact.

At L’Oréal, we have tried to combine the two points of view by getting them to work together. Thus everyone can better understand the needs and constraints of others, to find solutions that are acceptable to both parties. In the field of skin irritation, toxicologists have taken the time to draw up accurate specifications of their needs. This is a delicate exercise as toxicologists may have varying interpretations of the same dossier. Each toxicologist will build up reasoning or analysis based on his/her own knowledge or experience. Considerable work has been done to rationalize and define a common process and acceptance thresholds for the safety risk to the consumer. This is a cultural revolution!

The solutions that have been found, they are a result of joint efforts of Toxicologists and Biologists working hard together. These tools can be either in vitro (cell lines, reconstructed skin) or in silico (expert systems).

What are your next avenues for work?
With our toxicologists, we are finalizing “specifications” to evaluate skin sensitivity, regarding allergies. Here also, it is up to Research to provide toxicologists with the tools they need to do their job faster, more effectively and in a way that is less costly for the company.

Is this approach being adopted internationally?
The American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the same mindset as we do. Unlike European agencies, the American regulatory agencies are lucky enough to avail of research laboratories – this is also the case for the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). A team at the EPA was thus able to draw up the Toxcast research project on computational toxicology, in other words the use of information technology to help in decision-making. To do so, it built up a network of people from very different horizons: regulatory toxicologists, scientists, academics, industrialists or even startups! These people will analyze the results together, which speeds up the ability to progress. New approaches such as integrated test strategies are promising and will enable decisions to be made about toxicity in multiple dimensions. These are all signs that together we definitely can invent a new way of doing toxicology.

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J. Cotovio, Predictive Models & Methods


Tissue Engineering & Alternatives Methods

Agrostat 2016 is the 14th Symposium on Statistical Methods for the Food Industry (Lausanne, Switzerland 21st-24th March 2016). L’Oréal Research & Innovation was proud to sponsor this congress.

Discover our contributions for Sensometrics, Chemometrics and Risk & Process oral sessions.