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University of California-Berkeley

Superfund Research Program

Toxic Substances in the Environment

Center Director: Martyn T. Smith
Grant Number: P42ES004705
Funding Period: 1987-2027

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Summary (2006-2011)

The University of California-Berkeley Superfund Basic Research Program began in 1987. The goal is "to improve understanding of the relationship between exposure and disease; provide better human and ecological risk assessments; lower cleanup costs; and develop a range of prevention strategies to improve and protect public health, ecosystems and the environment." The Program builds on the strengths of UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in engineering, chemistry and molecular epidemiology, and consists of six interrelated basic and applied research projects. The overall theme of the program is "The application of functional genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, and nanotechnology to better detect arsenic, mercury, benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, trichloroethylene and other Superfund priority chemicals in the environment; evaluate their effects on human health, especially the health of susceptible populations such as children; and remediate their presence and reduce their toxicity. Themes of the individual projects include using proteomics and transcriptomics to study the role of chemical exposure in causing childhood leukemia; taking a functional genomic approach to finding susceptibility genes; applying novel biomarkers to study the health effects of arsenic; improving bioremediation of toxic chemicals through the application of -omic technologies and nanotechnology, and developing nano-scale sensors of chemical species in the environment. A toxicogenomics laboratory core and a computational biology core will assist researchers in creating tools for use in epidemiological and risk research. The new research translation core will facilitate intensive discussions between investigators and government audiences, and generate new initiatives to increase understanding of the significance and applicability of emerging areas of research to public health protection through policy, interventions, and individual actions. The training core will prepare graduate and post-doctoral students to conduct multidisciplinary research into the effects of environmental factors on health, and to develop technological solutions to prevent or mitigate the harm resulting from Superfund priority chemicals.

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