EPA Taps Stemina to Screen Drugs for Possible Birth Defects

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Stemina Biomarker Discovery has won a $10.6 million contract with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to screen drugs and chemicals for their potential effects on unborn fetuses.

The Madison, WI, company announced the five-year agreement on Thursday. It’s part of the EPA’s ToxCast initiative begun in 2007, which uses automated screening processes to expose living cells and proteins to chemicals. Researchers then watch for irregularities that might suggest health hazards. The methods are meant to screen large groups of chemicals quickly and limit the number of animal-based tests.

Stemina’s tests will seek to identify drugs and chemicals that might result in birth defects if a pregnant woman ingests or comes into contact with them. The EPA initiative has already tested more than 2,000 chemicals from sources such as food additives and industrial and consumer products.

Stemina’s toxicology tests combine technologies from stem cell research and metabolomics—the study of small molecules discharged or consumed by cells.

Stemina, founded in 2007, also tests the safety of chemicals used in farming, industrial settings, consumer products, and pharmaceuticals. It’s also developing tests to diagnose autism from a blood sample.