Yuling Xie awarded Innovators Under 35 price

Yuling Xie, Postdoctoral Researcher in the FREIA project, Queen’s University of Belfast, Belfast/UK was awarded the MIT Innovators Under 25 price. EmTech Europe unites leaders in academia, business and government to share ground breaking research-to-market advances and explore the latest breakthroughs in transformative technologies.

Since the term ‘endocrine disrupting chemicals’ (EDCs) was coined in the early 90’s, there have been calls for further research to improve our understanding of how EDCs impact both human and environmental health. The presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals in many everyday items such as clothing, food and cosmetics, makes our continuous exposure to them difficult to prevent. EDCs have not only been shown to effect fertility but may also result in transgenerational health risks, therefore research which leads to an even greater understanding of how these chemicals impact our health and cause disease is of utmost importance. 

Yuling Xie (Cher) began her research into EDCs during her postgraduate studies in Professor Lisa Connolly’s research group at Queen’s University Belfast, where she revealed how EDCs damage human health and the environment before switching her focus during her PhD to the metabolic effects of EDCs where she gained vast experience in assay development and optimisation. 

Cher has worked on developing high throughput test methods to identify chemicals with endocrine disrupting potential. Alongside her colleagues in the FREIA (Female Reproductive toxicity of EDCs: a human evidence-based screening and Identification Approach) project, Cher has expanded the knowledge of how EDCs impact female reproductive function. In addition to developing the high throughput test, Cher has also explored potential protective approaches to EDC exposure through the integration of nutritional studies to gain insight into how dietary intervention may help to counteract the negative effects of EDCs on our health. 

For more Innovators and information about the award: visit https://emtecheurope.com/innovators-2022/

A pragmatic way forward in chemical safety assessment

In a recent paper, FREIA partners Terje Svingen (DTU) and Pauliina Damdimopoulou (KI) propose an approach to speed up the development and acceptance of mechanistic descriptions that are used by chemical safety assessors and regulators.

Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOPs) are a way to organise scientific knowledge and describe how a stressor – such as exposure to an endocrine disrupting chemical – can lead to a harmful health effect through a chain of linked events. The use of AOPs is gaining wide acceptance and will help to support chemical safety assessors and regulators.

Yet, only a few AOPs are thoroughly evaluated and endorsed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which clearly hampers their regulatory use. A major hurdle is the immense amount of work that has to be put into the development of an AOP. “Putting together the information for one key event relationship (the link between two sequential events in an AOP – red.) took me about three months altogether”, explains Eleftheria Panagiotou, PhD student involved in this work.

“We propose to focus more on smaller building blocks and rely more on existing common knowledge”, says lead author Terje Svingen. The approach will make it more attractive for scientists to contribute to AOPs, because in this way, they can focus on their own expertise and don’t have to be an expert on all facets of an AOP from molecular interactions to health effects.

Moreover, a description of a smaller AOP building block makes an excellent paper to be submitted for peer-review. Besides the scientific merit, publishing the building blocks has the added advantage that external peer-reviewers have already critically evaluated the information. This may stimulate faster endorsement of AOPs by the OECD. “It is our hope that our proposed approach will increase the pace at which the AOP knowledge base is populated with endorsed AOPs, which will certainly improve chemical safety assessment processes.”, according to the authors of this paper.


Terje Svingen, Daniel L. Villeneuve, Dries Knapen, Eleftheria Maria Panagiotou, Monica Kam Draskau, Pauliina Damdimopoulou, Jason M O’Brien. A pragmatic approach to Adverse Outcome Pathway (AOP) development and evaluation. Toxicological Sciences, kfab113, https://doi.org/10.1093/toxsci/kfab113 Published: 17 September 2021