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Thomas Exner
Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) at Edelweiss Connect

Dr Thomas Exner is responsible for the scientific planning, execution and supervision of different commercial project in the area of data management and integrated testing strategy development for risk/safety assessment of chemicals, drugs and nano materials. Additionally, he is coordinating the H2020 e-infrastructure project OpenRiskNet, is work package leader in the ACEnano and NanoCommons project, leads the creation of a knowledge infrastructure in the EU-ToxRisk project as well as functions as principal investigator in the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network in3.

He studied chemistry and did his PhD in physical chemistry at the Technische Universität Darmstadt. After a postdoctoral stay at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, he was appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Konstanz in 2003. In April 2012, he moved to the Institute of Pharmacy at the University of Tübingen and continued his research in close co-operation with the experimental and theoretical groups at the Institute until early 2015, when he moved to Douglas Connect.

Dr. Exner is the author and co-author of more than 50 articles in peer reviewed international journals and several other scientific contributions.

OpenTox Euro 2019 talk: Towards building harmonized and interoperable e-infrastructures for reproducible new approach toxicology

The paradigm shift in risk assessment from descriptive, animal-test-based to mechanistic new approach methods and especially the introduction of the AOP concept has resulted in the need for advanced protocol and data management concepts, access to a multitude of harmonized data sources and in silico tools to process all the different pieces of evidence combining toxicodynamics and biokinetics. I will present here new developments specifically targeting these demands performed in different project funded by the European Union in the chemical and nanomaterial safety area.

Detailed test method descriptions, including the experimental procedure as well as information on the in vitro test model, processing and analysis procedures, technological readiness, validation status and quality measures, and safety, ethics and specific handling requirements, are essential to select assays providing results according to the guidelines, quality criteria and confidence levels of the specific application. EU-ToxRisk has pioneered the structured documentation of test methods and continues to annotate the assay with mechanistically relevant metadata like target genes, pathways and key events. However, making all these information available in a machine-readable format, will allow an automatic comparison of protocols used in different experiments and in this way to understand reasons for contradicting results or to allow merging of equivalent data sources to obtain larger datasets as demonstrated for physicochemical data in the ACEnano project.

Similar to protocols, annotation of data and providing easy ways to access and integrate it into automatic workflows are essential to identify all relevant high-quality datasets and generate reproducible integrated risk assessment workflows. The infrastructure projects OpenRiskNet and NanoCommons are providing knowledge platforms and data warehouse concepts giving access to data from different European as well as international projects, including e.g. the TOX21 datasets, in a harmonized and interoperable way via application programming interfaces (APIs). These can then be analysed and combined with computational/modelling approaches also on the OpenRiskNet platform. One such approach developed in the ADVaNCE project uses different data and knowledge bases and the semantically annotated and linked data therein to computationally generate key events and partial AOPs. 

OpenRiskNet (Grant Agreement 731075), EU-ToxRisk (Grant Agreement 681002), NanoCommons (Grant Agreement 731032) and ACEnano (Grant Agreement 720952) are projects funded by the European Commission within Horizon 2020 Programme. ADVaNCE is funded by an Individual Fellowship of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions awarded to Tatyana Doktorova.