International ToxScholar Shakil Saghir, PhD, Senior Toxicologist at Scotts Miracle-Grow in Marysville, Ohio, met with undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, and faculty of Karachi University in Pakistan in November 2019. He presented several talks on pesticides, drug development, and the impact of environmental pollution on human health, emphasizing the key role toxicology plays in the assessment of safety and risk. He also gave an eight-hour, two-day workshop on the process of drug development to postdocs, physicians, and professionals from the pharmaceutical industry.
More than 200 attended the “Role of Toxicology in Pesticide Registration” and “Environmental Pollution and Possible Solutions” presentations, and 25 attended the workshop on “Drug Development: From Inception to Marketing.”
The talk on the role of toxicology in pesticide registration was organized by Botany Department professors who work on bio-pesticides, evaluate efficacy in insect models, and investigate prospective plant-based drugs to treat human diseases, testing efficacy and safety in animal models. The presentation Dr. Saghir gave on the role of toxicology in assessing the risk of environmental pollution on human health was arranged by the Chairman of the Institute of Environmental Studies. The workshop was arranged by the Director of the Sardar Yasin Malik Professional Development Centre (SYMPDC) at the Karachi University campus. The workshop was part of the courses SYMPDC routinely offers to professionals and prospective professionals in many areas.
In each presentation, Dr. Saghir introduced the discipline of toxicology and SOT, along with prospects of higher education/research and employment in toxicology. Dr. Saghir tailored his talks to suit the attendees’ background and engaged them in discussions, asking questions and encouraging them to express their opinions.
The talks on pesticide and drug registration that Dr. Saghir gave were based on the primary question, What should one do if an efficacious bio-pesticide from a plant (e.g., neem—Azadiracta indica) or a promising drug from seaweed (e.g., Sargassum ilicifolium) is discovered to bring it to the market?
In addition to their potency and efficacy toward their target(s) for intended effect(s), the talks covered the role of in silico, in vitro, and in vivo toxicological investigations for the safety of drugs and pesticides to humans, the environment, and non-targeted life forms.
Dr. Saghir discussed types of in silico analyses, like QSAR models, available for the initial assessment of receptor-binding and possible toxicities of drugs and pesticides. Dr. Saghir covered the role of in vitro testing, like Ames and other high-throughput assays. He also mentioned the advancements in this area along with development of alternatives to animal models and mandates of regulatory agencies to replace or minimize testing of chemicals in animals in the future. Dr. Saghir described how acute, short-, and long-term animal studies are conducted, including general, developmental, reproductive, neuro- and immunotoxicity, and cancer studies.
During his presentation on environmental pollution, Dr. Saghir reviewed the impact of solid and liquid wastes on terrestrial and marine life, including the impact of plastic and microplastic, and open burning of solid waste that generates toxic chemicals responsible for diseases from respiratory ailments to cancer. He described ways to handle wastes, from banning single-use plastic or adding money deposits in the supply chain—from manufacturers to consumers—for efficient collection and disposal, to building proper landfills for solids, treatment plants for liquid wastes, and updating laws for enforcement.
In coordination with two professors, an assignment was given to students with credit for researching possibilities of using some of the proposed methods in their neighborhoods and writing reports.
Participation was high; many of the students asked questions during and after these sessions and remained involved throughout the presentations.
An understanding is reached for future interactions with these institutions for teaching via webinars and in person when visiting the city.
SOT provides International ToxScholar Grants to support member toxicologists who visit academic institutions in developing countries to expand the awareness of toxicology and promote toxicology careers to students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to learn about the discipline. More information is available on the SOT website; the next deadline for proposals is October 9, 2020.