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£1 million awarded for in silico assessment of developmental and reproductive toxicity

DARTpaths Challenge graphic

A consortium of academic institutions and SMEs led by Professor Raymond Pieters from the University of Applied Sciences Utrecht has recently been awarded £1 million by the NC3Rs to deliver Phase 2 of the 2017 DARTpaths CRACK IT Challenge.

Developmental and reproductive toxicity (DART) testing is required to assess the impact of new chemicals on adult fertility and embryo development. Currently, these tests use large numbers of animals, primarily rats and rabbits, and are expensive and time consuming. The relevance of the data generated to effects in humans is not always clear.

The DARTpaths Challenge aims to develop an in silico platform that integrates information on the relationship between specific genes and physiological pathways with data on the effects of specific chemicals in a range of mammalian and non-mammalian species (from social amoeba, to fruit flies to rodents), including humans where data is available.  By combining this information, the platform will allow more accurate in silico prediction of DART toxicity and ultimately help replace the use of rodents and rabbits by building confidence in the utility of non-mammalian model organisms.

CRACK IT Challenges is an R&D competition that brings together industry, academia and SMEs to develop products or improve business processes that will have a significant 3Rs impact. Challenges are proposed to the NC3Rs by Sponsors who are typically from the pharmaceutical, chemical or consumer product sectors. Sponsors support the solving of the Challenge by providing in-kind contributions and/or funding while the NC3Rs provides funding. The DARTpaths Challenge is sponsored by Shell and Syngenta who are contributing knowledge and expertise of DART as well as in vivo and in vitro phenotypic and omics data.

The NC3Rs is now inviting submissions from Sponsors of new CRACK IT Challenges for the 2019 competition. Organisations should submit ideas for a scientific Challenge to deliver commercial and 3Rs benefits by 1 March 2019 – details of how to do this can be found on our 'Submit a new Challenge' page.

Further information about the CRACK IT Challenges competition process can be found at