aQuaTox-Solutions was founded to offer solutions to the rapidly increasing demand by industry and regulators for alternatives to conventional testing with animals, specifically fish, in the hazard evaluation of chemicals and environmental samples. The founders of aQuaTox-Solutions have long been involved in the development of such alternative methods, focusing especially on cell lines from fish and on fish early life stages.
Stricter chemical regulations, such as for industrial chemicals under REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals), and growing popular pressure have brought about a great interest in alternative resp. animal-free methods for the hazard evaluation of chemicals, an area of long-standing expertise of the founders of aQuaTox-Solutions. As members of the Department of Environmental Toxicology (Utox) at Eawag they have been instrumental in the establishment of the Fish Embryo Acute Toxicity (FET) Test (OECD 236, which was adopted in July 2013) to predict acute fish toxicity. Moreover, an in vitro, i.e. fish-free method for predicting acute fish toxicity, the so-called RTgill-W1 cell line test (gill cell lines from rainbow trout), has been developed by the founders of aQuaTox-Solutions within Eawag-led research projects. Like the FET, it shows very good agreement with the acute fish toxicity test and is therefore a “genuine” alternative to animal testing, as no fish have to be killed to perform it. The RTgill-W1 cell line test has undergone approval by ISO (#21115); efforts to have the test adopted by OECD are likewise underway.
Aside from alternative strategies to evaluate the hazard of chemicals to fish, founders of aQuaTox-Solutions are working on the establishment of effect-oriented monitoring of surface water bodies using molecular methods. By means of a specific biomarker gene set, sub-lethal effects on fish or cell lines are being measured in order to draw conclusions about fish health and water quality. These tests have already proven successful in use for evaluating i) the effects of micropollutants that enter Swiss rivers from waste-water treatment plants and ii) the efficacy of new purification steps, such as ozonation, in water-treatment plants. This has led to great interest by environmental authorities.