Robert J. Kavlock, PhD, is the recipient of the 2018 Society of Toxicology (SOT) Merit Award. Dr. Kavlock has been selected as the recipient of the Merit Award in recognition of his distinguished contributions to toxicology throughout his career as a scientist and later as a leader in the field of computational toxicology.
For more than 40 years, Dr. Kavlock conducted research and led the science at the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA). He began at the US EPA as a biological researcher and worked his way up through the agency, becoming branch chief and then director of the Reproductive Toxicology Division. In 2004, he began laying down the foundation with like-minded, computationally inclined colleagues for the creation of US EPA’s National Center for Computational Toxicology (NCCT) in 2005.
Under his leadership as founding director, NCCT became a major innovative force for change within the US EPA, operating under a mandate to utilize modern computational tools, technologies, and expertise to help transform toxicological research within the agency. Dr. Kavlock’s leadership at the US EPA was visionary and he was instrumental in the launching of the US EPA Toxicity Forecaster (ToxCast).
In 2007, the National Academy of Sciences reinforced the directions of the US EPA’s computational toxicology program in its report Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy. Dr. Kavlock helped forge the creation of Toxicology in the 21st Century (Tox21), which brought together the US EPA, National Institutes of Health, and later the US Food and Drug Administration in a coordinated and complementary research consortium. Subsequently, the US EPA’s computational toxicology program created publicly available databases, which provide easy access to toxicological information on more than 500,000 chemicals, representing findings from 30+ years of animal toxicity studies; high-throughput screening data on nearly 3,000 chemicals; and information on the use of more than 40,000 chemicals in consumer products.
Dr. Kavlock accepted the position of deputy assistant administrator for the US EPA Office of Research and Development in 2012 and became acting assistant administrator in 2017. In these roles, Dr. Kavlock was routinely faced with complex scientific issues, which required his ready knowledge and understanding of the subtle nuances in order to make decisions impacting his department, his agency, the United States, and beyond. More recently, Dr. Kavlock led a workshop of international regulators to understand the barriers to alternative methods in risk assessment and how to increase acceptance globally.
A highly-productive scientist, Dr. Kavlock has more than 200 peer-reviewed publications. His work has been cited more than 11,000 times; a testament to the extent his peers value his contributions. He has received numerous awards, including many high-level awards within and outside of the US EPA. A member since 1988, Dr. Kavlock also has been very active in SOT and has participated on many Society committees. He served as president of the North Carolina Regional Chapter, president of the Reproductive and Developmental Toxicology Specialty Section, and on the Editorial Board for Toxicological Sciences.