Ever since molecular epidemiologist Christopher Wild coined the term “exposome” in 2005 to describe all of our environmental exposures, researchers have discussed how the concept could advance environmental health research.
Now, through a series of virtual workshops this summer, the NIEHS is beginning a pivotal shift from defining the exposome to demonstrating its value in environmental health science and beyond.
“Our hope is that in By developing an operational definition of exposure research, more scientists will have the tools to study how complex environmental exposures can contribute to various human diseases,” said NIEHS Director Rick Woychik, Ph.D.
The series of workshops, titled “Accelerating Precision Environmental Health: Demonstrating the Value of the Exposome(https://tools.niehs.nih.gov/conference/exposomics2022/)», included five open and interactive virtual workshops throughout July and August, and will conclude with a summit in September.
The ultimate goal, according to organizers, is to develop a roadmap for integrating exposomics into health and disease research.
“Comprehensive and systematic analysis of the environmental determinants of health and disease forces us to collaboratively solve complex challenges and seek out exciting opportunities,” said David Balshaw, Ph.D., Acting Division Director extramural research and training (DERT).
A specific subset of these challenges and opportunities served as the theme for each workshop.
- Tools, technologies and methodologies (exposome measurement).
- Biological responses and impact on health and disease (integration of multi-omics with biomarkers of exposure, response, effect, susceptibility, vulnerability and resilience).
- Future of clinical and prevention trials, cohorts and epidemiology (study design, computing power, pooling approach).
- Social and societal impacts (integrating social determinants of health, diversity, health disparities, privacy, trust, driving policy change).
- Data infrastructure and data analysis (analyze, interpret, visualize, integrate and share data).
The series brought together 400 people across the first four workshops, from a variety of disciplines, geographies and perspectives to create a framework for the field. Each of the workshops applied open space technology, a meeting format that allowed gatherings to be open, interactive and self-sustaining. The agenda was set by those in attendance, who offered ideas, led discussions and helped sort out priorities moving forward.
Yuxia Cui, Ph.D., health science administrator at the Exposure, Response and Technology Branch, said the open and interactive nature of the workshops enabled buy-in from the research community. in environmental health more broadly and demonstrated that their contribution is what will ultimately move the field forward.
Participants share their enthusiasm
Feedback from the workshops indicated that participants gained a lot in return for their participation.
- “Seeing science evolve in real time makes for fascinating and engaging discussions.” — Neil Zhao, University of Michigan.
- “Great discussions and commitment from everyone in a very open and fluid virtual environment. At first, I was a little apprehensive about the format, but it really worked. — Nigel Walker, Ph.D., NIEHS Division of the National Toxicology Program.
- “It was an amazing learning experience. A great opportunity to network and, in my role at NIH, a good opportunity to identify research gaps. Thank you.” — Guillermina Girardi, Ph.D., Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
- “Now I have three new research ideas!” — Qiwen Cheng, Ph.D., Arizona State University.
- “I’m excited about the spirit of collaboration exhibited in today’s discussions and the ‘big goals’ of the exposomique.” — Jessica Worley, Wayne State University.
Director of the NIEHS Office of Science Innovation, L. Michelle Bennett, Ph.D., who serves as a senior advisor for strategic initiatives and one of the workshop series committee members (see box), said the series conveyed the importance of advancing the field. exposoms.
“We wanted to create buzz and generate excitement, and I think we did that,” Bennett said.
(Marla Broadfoot, Ph.D., is a contract writer for the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison.)