Researcher’s computing testing could help identify toxic compounds

Fri, 04/11/2014

Contact

Cody Howard
School of Engineering
785-864-2936

LAWRENCE — Researchers at the University of Kansas School of Engineering are working on a new way to identify in advance whether a chemical could be toxic. Jun “Luke” Huan, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, uses an advanced computational method to analyze vast volumes of data on chemical compounds and determine which ones are more likely to cause complications in humans in small doses.

Based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Office of Toxic Substances, Huan estimates there are more than 100,000 chemicals that have not undergone simple toxicological experiments. A vast majority of these chemicals pose little or no threat to humans, especially in small doses. His research seeks to identify potential threats in a faster and less costly way than traditional methods.

“Testing toxicity of chemicals is expensive and time-consuming. It takes a lot of resources and creates ethical questions because traditional testing methods involve animal testing,” said Huan, who is director of the Bioinformatics and Computational Life Sciences Laboratory at the Information and Telecommunication Technology Center. “The statistical algorithm we’ve developed helps identify which chemicals the EPA should prioritize and which ones are likely to be toxic so those can be tested first."

Huan’s research on predicting the potential toxicity of chemical compounds was published in 2013 in the International Journal of Data Mining and Bioinformatics and was featured in a July 2013 article in R&D Magazine. It was conducted as part of a five-year, $500,000 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, awarded in 2009 to further his work in bioinformatics. Bioinformatics harnesses computer analysis to learn more about complex biological information, especially molecular genetics and genomics.

As Huan’s team collects and screens data on chemicals, they’re working to create an open database that could serve as a valuable resource to any researcher interested in examining potential threats.

“We’re trying to establish a platform so anyone can send us information, download data and access it freely. We’re hoping to create a platform to help promote additional research,” he said.



KU in the news
The Huffington PostWed, 07/30/2014
Inside Higher EdWed, 07/23/2014
Did you know KU is one of the first universities in the country to add Somali language training courses to its curriculum? The addition of theses courses meets the need of the growing Somali-speaking population in our area. http://bit.ly/1kAusbG Tags: #KUcommunities #KUstudents #Somali #Language #HigherEd
KU provides free counseling to #Kansas #cancer patients via telemedicine. http://t.co/VCWWVJLVD0 #KUfacts #KUWorks
Inside KU: Military language training, bullying, arthritis and KU's Panorama "Inside KU" explains how a Department of Defense grant is helping to provide real-world language training to military personnel soon to be deployed around the world. Learn more about KU Graduate Military Programs at (http://bit.ly/1rZHgAh). Also: KU researchers are working with Kansas schools to develop policies to stop bullying (See http://bit.ly/1jvhpxL). Bioengineering students at KU work on a potential treatment for arthritis (See KU-BERC at http://bit.ly/W1zAR5). The historic Panorama in KU's Natural History Museum is being expertly preserved (See http://bit.ly/1mPqJNd). The Time Warner Cable Sports Network's "Inside KU" is hosted by Jeannie Hodes.


One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
1 of 9 public universities with outstanding study abroad programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
—ALA
$260.5 million in externally funded research expenditures
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times