Universiteit Antwerpen (UA)

UA is one of the leading universities in Belgium with modern and up-to-date educational and research facilities. UA is ranked 13th in top young universities in the QS world university. Zebrafishlab was founded in 2010 as a joint academic laboratory of UA with members from the Veterinary Sciences and Biology departments. The research of Zebrafishlab focuses on the use of zebrafish (embryos) in ecotoxicology and food safety. Zebrafishlab uses an AOP-based strategy to develop alternative testing approaches using zebrafish embryos and in vitro/in chemico methods. Endocrine disruption has always been one of the main research lines and during recent years thyroid disruption has become a particular focus area. Together with collaborators from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Zebrafishlab recently built an AOP network for thyroid disruption in fish (OECD AOP project 1.35) and integrated this network with existing information in mammals and amphibians resulting in a cross-class AOP network which will provide the starting point for the ERGO project.

Dries is an Associate Professor and senior lecturer in Biochemistry, Environmental Toxicology and Systems Biology at UA. He founded Zebrafishlab in 2010. His research currently includes the fundamental study of zebrafish embryonic development, the mechanisms underlying aquatic toxicity, the development of alternative, non-animal test methods for ecological and human risk assessment, and the development of Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs) in predictive ecotoxicology and pharmacology. He is highly involved in the AOP community and has participated in several AOP-related workshops. He is a member of the Steering Committee and the Board of Directors of Beltox, the Belgian Society of Toxicology and Ecotoxicology. He is a member of the OECD EAGMST (Extended Advisory Group on Molecular Screening and Toxicogenomics). He is a member of the Flemish Committee on Laboratory Animals (Vlaamse Proefdierencommissie), advisory committee. Dries will be the PI for UA and will coordinate the work of UA in all WPs. He will lead WP3 on the development and application of a cross-class AOP network for thyroid disruption. As a member of the OECD EAGMST, he will regularly report to the OECD on the progress of ERGO regarding the thyroid disruption AOP network.

Lucia obtained her PhD in Biology in 2012, she actively helped set up Zebrafishlab and has been active as a post-doctoral researcher in Zebrafishlab since then. Her scientific activities involve understanding the mechanisms underlying toxicity by integrating responses at the molecular, biochemical and physiological level and development of AOP-based alternative testing strategies using in vitro and zebrafish embryo assays. She teaches Animal Physiology courses in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences and in the Faculty of Science. Lucia will be the co-PI for UA and will be responsible for the development of the AOP network and its application for selection of cross-class predictive assays in WP3. She will perform a literature search in WP2 and will be responsible for the experimental work involving fish embryo tests and enzyme inhibition tests in WP5 and WP7. She will also communicate the results to other WPs and will be responsible for writing reports and deliverables.

Evelyn Stinckens obtained her Master of Science (Biology) in 2013. After completing her Master thesis at the Zebrafishlab, University of Antwerp, she has continued her work as a PhD student in the same lab (expected graduation date – 06/20). She has published eight articles (H-index 4). She has expertise within aquatic toxicology with a main focus on effects of thyroid hormone disruption in zebrafish. Her PhD research was partly funded by the LRI-ECO20 and ECO20.2 projects “Development of an alternative testing strategy for the fish early-life stage test for predicting chronic toxicity”, a collaboration between the University of Antwerp, the US EPA and the Flemish Institute for Technological Research. Specifically, her PhD research consists of developing alternative, non-animal testing strategies for the assessment of thyroid hormone disruption in fish using an approach that includes both in vitro tests and in vivo whole organism alternative zebrafish embryo assays. Assay development is based on the Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP) framework. This research, amongst others, has led to the development of five AOPs that are currently part of the OECD AOP development programme workplan, i.e. thyroperoxidase (TPO) and/or deiodinase (DIO) inhibition leading to impaired swim bladder inflation in fish. Within ERGO, Evelyn will contribute to further expanding the existing thyroid hormone disruption AOP network leading to adverse effects in fish. She will continue the development of these AOPs in the AOP-wiki and aid in initiating the review process by the OECD. Furthermore, she will investigate possible relationships between acute and chronic data, and attempt to predict acute and chronic in vivo data based on in chemico and/or in vitro data.