Director, Centre for Alternatives to Animal Testing, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Professor, Evidence Based Toxicology
Joint Appointment: Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology





The main goal of my work is toward a paradigm shift in toxicity testing to improve public health. Due to my background as head of the European Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods of the European Commission (2002-2008), I am involved in the implementation of the 2007 NRC vision document “Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century – a vision and a strategy”. I have furthered the translation of concepts of evidence-based medicine to toxicology (evidence-based toxicology). This aims for systematic assessment of the quality of all tools for regulatory toxicology and the development of new approaches based on annotated pathways of toxicity (the Human Toxome).

I have a broad background in clinical and experimental pharmacology and toxicology documented in more than 350 publications. Previous work centered on the immune recognition of bacteria, including pyrogen testing, and the induced inflammatory response. In experimental and clinical approaches, the pharmacological modulation of these responses was studied. I have relocated to the US early 2009 and established beside the directorship for the Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT) a laboratory for developmental neurotoxicity research based on genomics and metabolomics the respective technologies were made available by a Thought-Leader Award from Agilent.



2001 Business Innovation Award of the region lake Konstanz for the development of an alternative pyrogen test

2002 RIVM Award at the World Conference on Animal Use and its Alternatives

2003 Environment Award of the Landesbausparkasse Baden-Wuertemberg

2004 Steinbeis Technology Transfer Award

2005 Paula and Richard von Hertwig-Preis for interdisciplinary collaboration

2005 16th most cited German pharmacologist, 30th most cited German immunologist (Laborjournal)

2006 US Society of Toxicology Enhancement of Animal Welfare Award

2008 / 2009 / 2010 ALTEX award for the article series "Food for thought…"

2009 2nd most cited German pharmacologist, 6th most cited German immunologist (Laborjournal)

2009 Russell & Burch award of the Humane Society of the US



14:30-16:00 6 NOVEMBER

Tackling the autism epidemic

Autism is a major public health concern, affecting 1 in 68 children in the US. The dramatic increase of autism rates, doubling every ten years, cannot be explained by genetics or changes in diagnostic criteria alone. Increasingly, epidemiological studies suggest that exposure to drugs and environmental chemicals may have a substantial impact on autism risk, but how and which chemicals do this is unclear. A program similar to those at the moment started for endocrine disruptor identification will at some point be needed. With about 100,000 chemicals in consumer products, the test challenge is enormous. Current animal tests cost $1,4 million and use 1,400 animals per substance – prohibitive for such larger screening of chemicals.

New technologies allow now producing 3D human brain organoids from stem cells, which represent the critical phases of brain development of chemical vulnerability. In the future, skin cells of autism patients can be used to derive stem cells and from them and generate such brain organoids. This allows studying mechanism of environmental contributions to risk of autism, along the hypothesis that the interplay of genetics and environment triggers the disease.