30. August – Publication (Genetic background and toxicant sensitivity)

The collaborative work, supported by the Luxemburg Center of Systems Biology, has been accepted by Arch Toxicol.

Title: Major changes of cell function and toxicant sensitivity in cultured cells undergoing mild, quasi-natural genetic drift

We used full genome sequencing to investigate functional differences of two subpopulations of the same cell type (LUHMES, human neuron precursors). We came up with a very extensive documentation of genetic drift occurring in normal cell cultures. The protein most strongly affected in its function was neither affected in its coding sequence, nor in its promoter; changes of upstream controllers had dramatic down-stream consequences on the function of the dopamine transporter, and associated toxicity.

Link: cannot be activated yet, due to a catastrophic administrative process around a BMBF program for publication costs

12. August 2018 – TV documentation of Leist lab and CAAT (engl.)

Our previous TV docu was processed by Deutsche Welle and overlayed with english voice commentary. It was broadcasted worldwide in a 9 minute documentary. Individual minutes can be seen as short videos

Tomorrow Today - The Science Magazine  Deutsche Welle  August 12, 2018 11:30pm-12:01am CEST



18. July 2018 – Conference organisation: READACROSS as animal-free approach of risk assessment

On 16.-18. July a workshop was organised (with the support of the University of Konstanz and other international organisations) to discuss international approaches towards the implementation and use of readacross (RAX). This approach uses knowledge on known toxicities of chemicals to derive information on the toxicity of yet non-tested chemicals. Very advanced computational methods (developed by CAAT; Thomas Hartung) were discussed that are based on the ‘big data’ that have become available in the field recently. The international aspect was covered by input from the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan and EURL-ECVAM (for the EU).

A workshop report will be prepared for publication.

14. July – Grant received by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (DK-EPA)

For the first time such a big grant has been given to an international consortium (Leist lab (Konstanz), Prof. E. Fritsche (Düsseldorf), Dr. T. Shafer (EPA, USA), Dr. A. Bal-Price (advisor role; EURL-ECVAM). A panel of pesticides will be investigated in this project for the potential to cause developmental neurotoxicity. The novelty is that only in vitro methods will be used.

06. July – PhD defense (Simon Gutbier)

Roche in Basel is winning a very valuable asset, while we lose our good colleague. The transition is marked by a summa cum laude defense. Good luck and success to Simon and best wishes for papers from Konstanz work still to be published.

06. July 2018 – TV coverage: alternatives to animal testing – human neuronal models

Work by the chair in Konstanz and by our CAAT partner Prof. Thomas Hartung at Johns-Hopkins University (Baltimore) on neuronal cultures and organoids is presented in the context of New Approach Methods (NAM) to substitute animal experiments.

The TV production in our lab resulted in a 6 min movie (in German):


It is part of a larger production on all aspects of animal experiments and alternatives to animal experimentation (45 min) with lots of background text and individual theme movies. Altogether a good way to get comprehensive info on the topic:


05. July – Workshop (Respiratory function testing)

Johannes Delp organized a workshop on advanced uses of the Agilent-Seahorse analyzer. Case studies from the University of Konstanz research groups and the EU-ToxRisk project (co-organizer) were presented, together with new solutions (D. Gebhard & S. Vikstrom, Agilent) optimized for specialized biological systems, such as  immune cells, neurons, bacteria and nematodes.


30. June – Publication (Chemical biology – new class of antioxidants)

Together with Prof. Sebastian Polarz (Chemistry in Konstanz) and PD David Schleheck (Biology in Konstanz) and several co-workers, we characterized novel fullerene-based surfactants designed in the Polarz group. The ms was published in Appl. Materials Interfaces (IF: 8.1)

Manuscript (Kunkel et al): https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsami.8b07032

Figure from Manuscript

25. June – Publication (Chemical biology – QSAR for neurotoxicity)

Together with our Brazilian guest researcher, Prof. E. Fagundez, and with different groups in Chemistry, we synthesized and characterized novel triazoles. A strucure-activity relationship for neurotoxicity was established in the manuscript: Correlation of structural features of novel 1,2,3-triazoles with their neurotoxic and tumoricidal properties”

Manuscript: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29944877

 Figure from Manuscript

11. June – Publication (Neuronal organoids)

A manuscript on the use of human neuronal organoids for study of toxicological resilience has just been accepted. This work was a collaboration with CAAT at Johns-Hopkins University (Baltimore) and followed up on our previous work

Manuscript: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29955902

Reference to previous work:    


Figure from Manuscript

25. May 2018 - Publication (Alzheimer's disease)

After a long delay, we managed to work through our previously-assembled large data set on Aß secretion from human neurons, and the modulation by secretase inhibitors. A remarkable finding was that there are situations in which treatment with protease inhibitors leads to a HIGHER release of the amyloid peptide (Aß). This findings supports the need for careful pharmacological studies over wide concentration ranges and under variable conditions (instead of the often-seen single perspective, single-dose, proof-of-principle studies).

Another remarkable side anecdote was that this was the first time we were caught for plagiarism by an automatic algorithm run by the publisher: the ‘plagiated’ work was the PhD thesis of the first author of the manuscript...... (nevertheless a disclaimer had to be added to the publication)

Manuscript source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29804308

Figure from Manuscript

16. May - EFSA workshop ‘Emerging risks’

ML gave a presentation at an European Food Agency (EFSA) workshop in Parma (I). The overall these was on emerging risks for society, relating to food, food ingredients and all aspects of the food production cycle. The specific talk topic was on the use of adverse outcome pathways (AOP) to bridge epidemiological and molecular data sets.

14./15. May 2018 – TV coverage

Work by the chair and by CAAT-Europe (including the historical track record of the University in this field) was put at the focus of a TV documentary. From the ‘scientific side’ we tried to capture good time lapse movies on how human neuronal networks form in culture dishes, and how they disintegrate upon toxicant stress. Let’s see what is coming out of it when all is processed.....

25. April 2018 - Publication

First article published in the BenchMarks Series. This is a new series of articles in ALTEX that addresses common technical problems and errors and that is co-ordinated by M. Leist. The inaugurating article deals with curve normalizations in toxicology/pharmacology/cell biology.

Ref: https://www.altex.org/index.php/altex/article/view/825


15. April 2018 – New Staff

Giorgia Pallocca joined our CAAT-Europe organisation. Giorgia obtained a PhD at Uni Konstanz in 2017, after working at the EURL-ECVAM (Ispra, I) and the University of Bologna. She has an excellent track record in animal replacement research (LUSH prize 2014) as well as development of NAM (several publications based on stem cells and transcriptome analysis), and she will be an important contributor for the H2020 project EU-ToxRisk.

6.-9. March 2018: Course on computational toxicology and modelling

CAAT-Europe organized a Summer School for European project partners (EU-ToxRisk and other projects, n = 30 participants) in the historical Konzil building on the use of computational toxicology tools such as quantitative in vitro-in vivo extrapolations (qIVIVE), physiology-based pharmacokinetic modelling (PBPK), metabolite predictions, quantitative AOP (qAOP) and Bayesian networks

27. February 2018: Publications

Following a workshop uniting specialists from Europe and the USA on developmental neurotoxicology (DNT) from academia national competence centers and and regulatory agencies, a catalog of Test Readiness Criteria was published. These were put into the context of regulatory application of New Approach Methods (NAM).


The publication was accompanied by a consensus statement on the state of DNT testing by international stakeholders.


27. February 2018: German Toxicology Summit

German Toxicology summit (DGPT annual meeting in Göttingen). Talk by M. Leist at Systems Toxicology Symposium on “A human stem cell differentiation system to screen for developmental toxicants”

22. February 2018

Tanja Waldmann receives the ‘best poster price’ at the EU-ToxRisk general assembly. Over 70 posters had been assembled and scored. Tanja’s work referred to a human stem cell based method to characterize developmental toxicants and to rank compounds known to trigger craniofacial malformations according to their hazard potential. The assay has been developed mainly by Nadine Dreser, Stefanie Klima, Nina Balmer and several others over many years, and it is has been used in several collaborative research projects.

Background literature: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27188386

20. February 2018

The University submitted the proposals for the Excellence initiative (final evaluation round). We feel that it was an enormous challenge to design and shape a project like ‘ChemLife’. And now we are happy that (i) a really solid and excellent proposal has been assembled, and (ii) that this intense phase of work is over for a while :-).

We all hope for intense project kick-off activities again after the judgement day (end of September).

15. February 2018

We came out as winner of a public procurement process of the European Food Agency (EFSA; http://www.efsa.europa.eu/) in a bid to establish a test battery for developmental neurotoxicity. The Kick-off meeting of this EFSA project was held in Parma. For the next 18 months, we will develop together with the US-EPA, the European Comission JRC (EURL-ECVAM) and the Leibnitz Research institute for Environmental Medicine in Düsseldorf (Prof. E. Fritsche; http://www.iuf-duesseldorf.com/home.html) new tests for DNT

Background literature: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29447839 (consensus statement); https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28407175 (OECD/EFSA workshop)

5. Februar 2018

Publication on ‘Canagliflozin mediated dual inhibition of mitochondrial glutamate dehydrogenase and complex I: an off-target adverse effect’ in Cell Death and Disease (CDDis)

This collaboration with the group of Prof. Daniel Dietrich (Human and Environmental Toxicology, Konstanz) used metabolic analysis and our mitochondrial profiling approach to identify the potential for specific toxicity of an important diabetic drug. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29445145

25. Januar 2018

Publication on ‘A high-throughput approach to identify specific neurotoxicants/ developmental toxicants in human neuronal cell function assays’  in ALTEX

In this work, we collaborated with the National Toxicology Program of the USA (NTP), a renowned computational toxicology group in Barcelona (University Pompeu Fabra) and our Department of Computer and Information Science). We performed two screens for specific neurotoxicants and established several new principles on how to use screen assays in modern toxicology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29423527

12. Januar 2018

Publication on ‘Stage-specific metabolic features of differentiating neurons: Implications for toxicant sensitivity’ in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology (TAAP)

This collaborative work brought together specialists in metabolomics, systems toxicology and metabolic flux analysis. It may at present be the most comprehensive description of a metabolic flux model in human neurons.

It also provides the first evidence for the dependence of toxicant sensitivities of neurons at different developmental stages. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29278688

9. Januar 2018

 Participation of Prof. M. Leist as founding member of the Bf3R committee in Berlin. This commission gives advice to the new center for animal protection (Bf3R) at the Federal institute of Risk assessment (BfR).


10. Dezember 2017

Publication on ‘An adverse outcome pathway for parkinsonian motor deficits associated with mitochondrial complex I inhibition’ out in Arch Toxicol.

The large review (42 pages), together with EFSA, Danish EPA and EURL-ECVAM specialists relates toxicants affecting mitochondrial function to the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Here a new approach was pioneered to use structure-activity relationships to identify toxicant mode-of-action:

7. Dezember 2017

Talk of Marcel Leist at the ethics platform of the BOKU University Vienna on alternatives to animal experimentation: state of the art (available on YouTube)


1. Dezember 2017

Publication on ‘A structure-activity relationship linking non-planar PCBs to functional deficits of neural crest cells: new roles for connexins’ out in Arch Toxicol.

Here a new approach was pioneered to use structure-activity relationships to identify toxicant mode-of-action: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29164306

21.-23. November 2017

Invited talk of Johannes Delp at OpenTox workshop "Collaboration and integration: Toxicology and risk assessment in the time of dynamic data". The conference is to be held in Basel November 21-23


21. November 2017

Generation shift: PhD exam of Johanna Prüfung (now post-doc at the environmental protection agency of the USA (EPA), and start of the new students Ilinca Suciu, Christopher Scholz and Anna-Katharina Ückert: welcome!

6. November 2017

Today, one year ago, the prestigious LUSH prize was awarded for research in our group. See a video informing on the scientific concept of model developoment and systems toxicology:


21. October 2017

Marcel Leist receives the 2017 world-wide recognition award of the aaalac international


15. October 2017

Leist et al. (2017) Adverse outcome pathways: opportunities, limitations and open questions. Arch Toxicol, in press


Collaborative work with > 30 co-authors on strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of the adverse outcome pathway (AOP) concept promoted by the OECD.

31. September 2017

Results of the first evaluation round for research clusters of the excellence initiative: The ChemLife project proposal was selected for the second round. Our projects and systems toxicology play an important role.

21. - 25. September 2017

Tanja Waldmann and Johanna Nyffeler are invited to a workshop of the US national toxicology program (NTP) to present data generated from the University of Konstanz (UKN) test methods for developmental neurotoxicity (DNT). Twenty researchers from around the world were assembled by personal invitation to work out new test strategies.

Background on NTP: https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/results/areas/index.html

1. September 2017

Our alumni Johanna Nyffeler joins the US environmental protection agency (EPA) to work on new systems toxicology approaches of toxicity assessment within the Tox21 program.

Info on the program: www.epa.gov/chemical-research/toxicology-testing-21st-century-tox21

11. August 2017

Production of a document on good in vitro practices in collaboration with the European Commission and the OECD.
The document went into the second public consultation round:



Background information: There is a scientific policy and regulatory desire for validated and internationally accepted in vitro methods (e.g. OECD test guidelines or ISO standards). To accommodate the needs of regulatory authorities, a number of in vitro methods, often based on the use of human cells and tissues, have been submitted to international validation bodies during the last two decennia. However, the experience gained during these validations revealed that many in vitro methods need significant improvements in design, robustness and reliability before they can be successfully implemented in a routine laboratory environment to generate data sets, which can be used to support regulatory decisions. GIVIMP specifies these improvements.

15. May 2017

Workshop on ‘developmental and reproductive toxicity (DART) test methods’

The workshop was held in collaboration with BASF and CAAT-Europe in the historical concilium building. International experts worked on a roadmap for improved DART testing to support development of new compounds, reduce the use of animals, and increase safety of the population

5. May 2017

Publication of our first screening paper to identify unknown toxicants together with the National Toxicology Program, USA (NTP) and the Computational Toxicology unit at University of Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona). We define strategies for ‘hit’ (= positive screen result) confirmation and hit follow-up in the field of toxicology.



Nyffeler J, Dolde X, Krebs A, Pinto-Gil K, Pastor M, Behl M, Waldmann T, Leist M. (2017) Combination of multiple neural crest migration assay to identify environmental toxicants from a proof-of-concept chemical library. Arch Toxicol, 10.1007/s00204-017-1977-y

29. April 2017

Publication of a large systems toxicology-oriented review on the MPTP Parkinson’s disease model, together with leading experts involved in the initial discovery of the underlying toxicant (D. DiMonte, DZNE, Bonn), and  in contemporary landmark discoveries concerning new mechanisms (K. Tieu, Miami).


 Schildknecht S, Di Monte DA, Pape R, Tieu K, Leist M (2017) Tipping points and endogenous determinants of nigrostriatal degeneration by MPTP. Trends Pharmacol Sci, in press doi: 10.1016/j.tips.2017.03.010

27. April 2017

Workshop on ‘Data management and data processing in large European projects’ with 28 international participants in the Concilium location in Konstanz. Co-Organised by CAAT-Europe (M. Daneshian), Douglas Connect (Basel) and the European Bioinfomatics Institute (EBI, Cambridge)

5. April 2017

Our new paper on interferon developmental hazard is out 


Pallocca G, Nyffeler J, Dolde X, Grinberg M, Gstraunthaler G, Waldmann T, Rahnenführer J, Sachinidis A, Leist M. Impairment of human neural crest cell migration by prolonged exposure to interferon-beta. Arch Toxicol. 2017

16. March 2017

 The EFSA opinion ‘A new path to toxicity assessment’ is officially published


We worked hard on this, and on the embedded adverse outcome pathway (AOP) examining a relevant link of pesticides and Parkinson’s disease (link)


7.March 2017

M. Leist receives the ‘GT-toxicology award’ at the German Toxicology Summit in Heidelberg for excellent publications in the previous year