“Since we are the first local chapter to launch, we have to show what can be accomplished and set an example for other chapters,” says Stephen Edwards, Counselor for OpenTox’s new Raleigh-Durham local chapter.
The chapter, only initiated last autumn, already has exciting events planned for the year ahead. Raleigh-Durham will once again host the OpenTox USA conference in July. In addition, its monthly informal meetings are becoming a forum where ideas, knowledge, and understanding are shared across several disciplines. Chapter members hope that such events will help launch the OpenTox organization throughout the rest of the United States.
The Raleigh-Durham local chapter benefits from the engaged participation of its members, determined to spur growth of the OpenTox community in North Carolina. Noffisat Oki, Bioinformatics Scientist, Douglas Connect, has accepted the role of President and will oversee the meetings and communicate with the larger community through the General Assembly. The new Vice President, Annie Jarabek, Senior Science Advisor at the National Center for Environmental Assessment, U.S. EPA, views the local chapter as a platform to “enhance and raise awareness for the need of interdisciplinary dialogue, and to create another venue and outlet for communication in risk assessment”. EPA Toxicologist George Woodall, Counselor, believes that the chapter will promote “a common understanding in toxicology when it comes to extracting, describing, and disseminating information” to industry participants. Stephen Edwards, Bioinformatics Senior Scientist at RTI International, also Counselor, is excited for the chapter to “act as a presence to help gain momentum and act as a launching point for OpenTox to other areas in the U.S.” TJ Bozada, Chief Revenue Officer, ToxTrack, has taken on the role of Secretary/Treasurer, an opportunity he sees as “a great way to reintroduce myself to the industry and keep abreast of scientific developments”.
OpenTox USA offers the opportunity for open discussion on toxicology, safety assessment, and regulation. “Everyone will benefit by being in the same room openly discussing their research”, says TJ Bozada. “OpenTox as an organization is best positioned to advance computational applications from an interdisciplinary aspect,” adds Annie Jarabek.
The Raleigh-Durham area is, arguably, the toxicology industry’s most fertile area in the USA. The academic environments of UNC, Duke, and NC State, combined with prominent agencies such as the EPA and NIEHS, create a “critical mass of researchers that are interested in similar topics”, says George Woodall. Research Triangle Park is a great environment for OpenTox to begin to “build bridges and provide a common platform to address issues”, says Annie Jarabek. The efforts and momentum in the Raleigh-Durham area can then be built and capitalized upon in other areas.
The OpenTox Association is off to a great start in the Raleigh-Durham area. We invite everyone to join in the effort to provide openness, transparency, and common vocabularies to predictive toxicology, safety assessment and the broader scientific community.