Pathfinder Innovation Projects: Awardees 2014

Stage 1

Holistic assessment of global gene expression response to environmental exposures
The project aims to revolutionize experimental chemical hazard assessments by using a technique called fluorescent in situ RNA sequencing (FISSEQ) to assess global gene expression for an entire model organism in situ.

Transforming 21st century toxicology – personalized environmental health assessment

The project aims to apply stem cell technology to determine the impact of environmental exposures to air pollutants and/or chemicals on human regenerative capacity, longevity and disease risk by monitoring adult stem cell number, profile and function. 


Developing immunotoxicology testing for the 21st century

The project aims to develop a suite of complementary in vitro functional assays reflecting processes critical for the development of an appropriate immune response, which could markedly decrease the time needed for functional assessments of immunotoxicity.

Use of epigenetic information to transform how the EPA identifies susceptible populations

The project aims to explore whether it is feasible to identify epigenetic patterns that potentially modify an individual’s susceptibility and response to air pollutant exposures.

Developing sensitive biosensor for detecting arsenic in ground water

The project aims to develop a novel method to measure arsenic with enzyme-based biological sensors. Ultimately, the method will be suitable for field-determinations of low levels of arsenic in ground water. 

Gut microbiome influence on brain development

The project aims to expand our understanding of chemical susceptibility during embryonic zebrafish development to include the microbiome. This project will test whether gut colonization during development is required for neurobehavioral development and whether the presence or absence of the gut microbiome shifts susceptibility to environmental exposures.


Retinal imaging approach detects microvascular responses to air pollution exposure

The project aims to detect vascular responses to air pollution exposure in communities by evaluating the changes in diameter of small blood vessels in the eyes.

Comparative ecological risk assessment by connectivity mapping

The project aims to exploit the conservation of molecular pathways across fish species to yield a powerful and efficient informatics approach for ecological risk assessment (ERA) of chemicals.


Smartphone water quality accessory networked to web-based analytics

The project aims to build a low-cost, accurate and intuitive smartphone spectrometer accessory for measuring turbidity, an important indicator of water quality that also relates to pathogen abundance and contaminates.

Stage 2


Gut microbiome influence on developmental toxicity

This project will study how the gut microbiome might influence developmental toxicity outcomes and whether chemical exposures might alter the microbiome.

Use of epigenetic information to transform how EPA identifies susceptible populations – A Tox21 approach to air pollution risk assessment

This project offers a novel approach to identifying biomarkers of air pollutant susceptibility. The team will study chromatin modifications, an epigenetic regulator

Developing a sensitive biosensor for detecting arsenic in ground water

This project will work toward developing a prototype of an enzyme-based biosensor that will detect low concentrations of arsenic in ground water.

Stage 3

The “brain on a chip” model for developmental neurotoxicity testing – Implementation of a cost-effective, rapid screen system

This project introduces ground-breaking work on a rapid method to screen chemicals for developmental neurotoxicity by looking at the responses of neuron networks grown in the lab. 

High throughput cardiotoxicity screening of particulate matter sources using zebrafish

This project will design a cost-effective, high-throughput screening system that will rapidly assess cardiotoxicity of multiple sources of particulate matter.

Implementation of semantic modeling to support life cycle and near-field chemical assessment

This project will implement an automated system that will identify and incorporate life cycle analysis (LCA) inventory data into appropriate LCA tools.