Organiser: Dr Thomas Hartung (DE), Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health. Aidan Gilligan (IRL), Founder & CEO, SciCom – Making Sense of Science.

Tuesday 26th July, 2016: 17h10 – 18h25

Session Abstract:

Like it or not, animal testing is key to public health. But doubts are growing – not only for ethical reasons, but also in terms of costs, long study times, and a lack of accuracy – rabbit skin is not human skin. Billions are spent on compulsory testing at circa €20 million for a pesticide or €10 million for a new drug. Yet, the majority of the 7,000 flavours in e-cigarettes, the 5,000 additives in food or the 3,000 fragrances we use every day have never been tested.

Can society put a price on product safety? It seems so. It’s called saving money now and then waiting to see what happens, like the five years it takes to learn what might be inducing cancer. This session brings together the experiences of a leading toxicologist, a government science adviser, industry and a funding agency. Looking at the latest green toxicology, mini-brains on a chip and efforts to regulate recreational psychotropic drugs and vaping products, panellists will discuss how science provides better alternatives towards more ethical, fit-for-purpose testing.


  • Fostering breakthrough science;
  • Ensuring responsible research & innovation, aligned with the values, needs and expectations of society.

Scientific Theme:

Healthy populations

Relevance to Theme, Special Relevance to Audiences & Diversity Statement:

The drive for national, regional or global breakthrough science and standards around the foods we eat, the products we use, the technologies we optimise or even the air quality we breathe are all based on intense scientific engagements. These happen across multiple levels from the lab to the stock market ticker-tape to the parliamentary office. Aimed at all delegates, this session offers concrete case-study insights, bringing together the three strands of academia, industry and government scientific adviser with the overarching opinions of a leading public ethicist and the steady-hand moderating of a respected public health funding leader. This session includes the maximum nationality balance allowed of 5 panelists from 4 continents, including a leading female product developer. They have all also been carefully selected from an ethical standpoint to offer a range of evidence-based views on often highly emotionally charged scientific topics that will appeal to a broad spectrum of delegates.


: Dr Thomas Hartung (DE),
Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Irish Flag
Aidan Gilligan (IRL),
SciCom – Making Sense of Science.
South African Flag
Moderator: Professor Julian Kinderlerer (SA),
Prof of Intellectual Law, Cape Town University; Immediate Past President, European Group in Ethics in Science & New Technologies (EGE).

Japanese Flag
Professor Tateo Arimoto (JP),
Principal Fellow, Japan Science & Technology Agency (JST); Professor, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS).

South Korean Flag Discussant: Dr. Chul Joong Kim (KR),
Senior Health Science Editor Chosun Ilbo & Immediate Past-President, World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ).


Presentation Title: Game Changers: Green Toxicology & Mini-Organs On A Chip

France Flag Speaker 1:
Dr. Thomas Hartung, JHU (DE),
Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Thomas Hartung is a global thought-leader in evidence-based toxicology, pharmacology, molecular microbiology and immunology. He is passionate about promoting greater understanding of our every-day drugs and chemicals, which have long been suspected of playing a role in the genesis of most disease. As PI, he heads the Human Toxome Project funded as an NIH Transformative Research Grant and hosts the Secretariat of the Evidence-based Toxicology Collaboration. 

Talk Description:

The revolutionary idea of Green Toxicology is simple – let’s use simple tests and computer models to predict early on which substance is less likely to produce problems. By taking samples of small amounts synthesised early on to test in cell cultures, we can determine what effects to expect and which structures to avoid (benign design). By letting the toxicologist talk to the chemist, all of science can benefit from “failing early and failing cheap”. The upside is also that the chemical industry can learn to “test early and develop clean”. This new approach can further be amplified by embracing mini-organs on chips. The human body has more than 200 cell types, many of which can now be cultures. But as a pile of bricks is not a house, a bunch of cells is not an organ and certainly not an organism. The game-changer is that bioengineers and biologists are beginning to build functional mini-organs (micro physiological systems with organ functionalities) and putting them together with microfluidics. These mini-organs on chips might soon be run in tests in combination, a truer representation of how the human body functions.

Status: Confirmed

Presentation Title: Recreational Drug Use: Evidence-Based Versus Values-Based Discussion

New Zealand Flag Speaker 2:
Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Adviser (NZ),
CSir Peter Gluckman is a pediatrician and endocrinologist, currently serving as the CSA to the PM of New Zealand. He is Co-Chair of the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity and holds numerous posts in Academies and Universities worldwide, including being a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the UK and US academies of Medicine. He has provided science advice to government on many issues including teenage morbidity and recreational drugs.

Talk Description:

My talk will describe the arms race underway between chemists and regulators that the regulators simply cannot win. Most countries take a standard prohibitive approach to recreational psychotropic drugs – namely grading them for their perceived risk of harm and addiction and then listing them in legal schedules with a proportional range of penalties. With the advent of synthetic cannaboids, many potential harmful agents may escape regulation. I will draw from New Zealand’s experience in developing an Act which proposed to ban all such agents unless they were proven to be ‘safe’. Proponents of liberalising recreational drug use argued for a lower standard of proof than needed for a medicinal pharmaceutical agent i.e. synthetic chemistry is robust enough and in vitro testing suffices. Those with experience of pharmacology argued that in vivo animal testing in two species is required, including some form of acute and chronic toxicology measures. The use of animals in research being highly emotive, the question of testing recreational drugs in animals became a no-go for Parliament as a result of unexpected amendments at select committee. With the Ministry of Health’s Drug Safety Committee requiring animal testing to certify a pharmacological agent as fit for human use, the outcome was effectively a total ban on the recreational use of psychoactive agents. This concrete example shows that when science may seem key to resolving a public health question, in reality it can be marginal to the larger political and values-based process.

Status: Confirmed

Presentation Title:
Getting Harm Reduction Defined As A Public Health Response Within The UN

Italian Flag Speaker 3:
Dr. Marina Trani, Head of R&D, Nicoventures (IT)
Dr Trani is an R&D brand specialist expert in the stewardship of many home care, beauty and healthcare products. With expertise in customer-focused, rigorous and high-quality science, she can help identify those gaps that remain in product testing and share her views as to what a more joined-up, results-orientated regime might look like. From sharing accurate product data and harmonising standards, to company specific manufacturing and distribution, she brings the necessary business perspective.

Talk Description:

1.3 billion people smoke today and this may kill up to 2/3 with estimates of 1 billion preventable tobacco-related premature deaths at stake in the 21st Century. That is precisely why tens of millions of people are switching to vaping. Yet, are e-cigarettes ‘safe’ or simply ‘safer’? Or does their nicotine and food flavorings-laced vapor risk users developing cancer much in the same way that tobacco smoke does? The answer is that science and society, at large, are unclear what to think or do about vaping. While the jury is out, the global picture from acceptance to partial and total bans is a total mess. While experts for and against mount onslaughts at the WHO, FDA and EU, evidence-based science appears to be taking the back seat. In this presentation, we focus solely on safety testing. I will show that customer-focused, rigorous and high-quality science is starting to address many of the valid concerns. I will describe the gaps that remain and argue what a more joined-up, results-orientated testing regime might look like. Nevertheless, my key message will be that more needs to be done to oversee and ensure the sharing of accurate product data and to harmonise the standards companies operate to in their development of e-cigarette products, their manufacturing and distribution.

Status: Confirmed