Dr. Henrik Johansson is one of 2014's Young Researcher prize winners. The project for which he was awarded the Lush Prize describes the development and use of the novel test method GARD – Genomic Allergen Rapid Detection, an assay for assessment of chemical sensitisers.
Regulatory framework within the European Union demands that chemical substances are investigated for their ability to induce sensitisation, an adverse health effect caused by the human immune system in response to chemical exposure. A recent ban on the use of animal tests within the cosmetics industry has led to an urgent need for alternative, animal-free test methods that can be used for assessment of chemical sensitisers.
GARD utilises an in vitro model of so-called dendritic cells, a central player in the human immune system. These cells are stimulated with any substances to be tested, and following an incubation time of 24 hours, the genetic material of the cells is isolated. By measurements of a certain set of genes in the cells, which could be viewed as on/off-switches of the immune response, the eventual risk of the tested substance's ability to induce allergy can be predicted.
Being based on human immunology, studies have shown that GARD is an accurate and safe method for safety assessment of chemicals without the use of animal experiments.
The research leading to the development of GARD was performed at The Department of Immunotechnology, Lund University. Located in southern Sweden and founded in 1666, Lund University is one of Scandinavia’s largest universities and is consistently ranked in the top 100 universities worldwide. The Department of Immunotechnology carries out research and higher education in research areas spanning from advanced technology developments to biomedicine. The research focuses on technological applications of the knowledge of the human immune system. The main research areas are within oncology, allergy and antibody engineering.
Following the development of GARD, a spin-out company – SenzaGen AB – was formed. The mission statement of SenzaGen AB is to deliver to industry accurate and animal-free tools for prediction of sensitizing potencies and properties of chemicals and proteins, bringing academic results to good use for society.