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Professor Dr. Gilbert Schönfelder, Toxicologist at the Charité, to become the new Head of the Department of Experimental Toxicology and ZEBET at the BfR

27/2012, 01.10.2012

First joint appointment by BfR and Charité

As of 1 October 2012, Professor Dr. Gilbert Schönfelder will head the Experimental Toxicology Department and ZEBET at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). In the Department, toxicologists will closely cooperate with the National Centre for Documentation and Evaluation of Alternatives to Animal Experiments (ZEBET), which was established more than two decades ago. ZEBET’s objective is to limit the use of animals for scientific purposes to an absolute minimum and to develop alternatives to animal experiments. The BfR has extended this area by means of a joint appointment together with the Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin. "With the appointment of Professor Schönfelder, the links between university-based and department-based research are further consolidated in the interest of consumer health protection", says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "ZEBET’s expertise, built up over decades, is supplemented and strengthened through the resulting synergy effects." Schönfelder will continue with his work as a Full Professor at the Charité while at the same time acting as head of the new department at the BfR.

Schönfelder is a well-established expert, provider of expert scientific opinions and renowned scientist in the area of Pharmacology and Toxicology. His research focuses on experimental toxicology, the development and validation of alternative methods to animal experiments and reproductive and developmental toxicology. He is the Chairperson of the Hormonal Toxicology Section of the German Endocrinology Society and pharmacological and toxicological expert for national and international institutions, committees and law courts. In 2008, he was appointed expert to the BfR Committee for Contaminants and other Undesirable Substances in the Food Chain. He was provider of expert opinions within working groups of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The foundations of his scientific expertise go back to his time as a medical student and scientific assistant at the University Clinic Benjamin Franklin of the Free University of Berlin. In 2003, he took up the position of a Junior (Assistant) Professor at the Charité University Medicine at the University of Berlin. From 2007 to 2010, he has been Associate Professor at the Department of Toxicology at the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg. This was followed by an appointment as Full Professor at the Institute for Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology at the Charité.

The focus of his work for the BfR will continue to be molecular and experimental toxicology. Schönfelder's goal is to unravel molecular mechanisms of the effects, at the organ and cellular level, of chemicals in their conventional form and also in nano size. This knowledge is the basis for the development and validation of methods that are to replace the legally required animal experiments in the safety assessment of chemicals.

The joint appointment by the BfR and Charité aims at even closer cooperation in the areas of research and support of young scientists. Thus scientific concepts such as the so-called "3R Principle" for the replacement of animal experiments are to be integrated into the fundamental research of the universities to a greater extent in future. According to the 3R Principle, an alternative method must pursue at least one of the following three goals: to minimise the suffering and pain experienced by test animals, known as refinement, to reduce the number of test animals used (reduction) and, by applying the alternative method, to substitute animal experiments (replacement).

In addition, research on refinement will be developed further within the department. Linking the focal points of the tasks within the department with the scientific advice provided by the federal ministries are other important challenges. Schönfelder will represent the BfR in relevant national and international committees.

About the BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.




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