Maastricht University (UM) is represented by its Department of Toxicogenomics. The Department is well experienced in managing EU research consortia, has coordinated EU projects NewGeneris, carcinoGENOMICS, diXa and Phytome, and is currently coordinating FP7 project HeCaToS. The Department represents one of Europe’s leading research teams in the domain of in vitro toxicogenomics, and has successfully absorbed microarray-based mRNA, microRNA and epigenomics analyses over past years. Globally, the team was one of the first to report on RNA-sequencing analysis in toxicology.
The project is embedded within the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences which forms, with the Academic Hospital Maastricht, MUMC+ (Maastricht University Medical Centre).
The Department of Toxicogenomics is specialized in genetic and hepatic toxicology, and in particular in toxicogenomics. Work emphasizes on in vitro approaches for developing alternatives to current animal toxicity tests, as well as on studying gene-environment interactions in human volunteers, in environmentally exposed groups and patients. At the UM Department of Toxicogenomics all hardware, software and experience necessary for performing and analyzing large-scale genomics studies is available (>6000 microarrays done in the past 5 years). The Department has access to the State-of-the-Art equipment in next-generation sequencing (Illumina HiSeq2000), at UM’s central Clinical Genomics facility. In 2012, the Department published the second paper worldwide within toxicology on applying innovative RNA sequencing techniques to models of toxicity (J. van Delft et al., Toxicol.Sci. 2012). The Department has been partner of the Sequencing Quality Control (SEQC) project led by the US Food and Drug Administration which conducted a technological evaluation of RNA sequencing analysis in toxicogenomics.
The Department holds a unit of toxicoinformatics, comprising 11 fte, which covers the whole spectrum of ‘omics data analysis, ranging from raw data QC to integrated systems modeling and visualization. The Department entertains a standing collaboration with SURFsara, the national e-infrastructure in The Netherlands, which enables a substantial increase in data storage capacity and calculation power. Through this collaboration, Maastricht University has acquired its own HPC cluster connected to the national Life Sciences Grid. The cluster will have a capacity of 128 CPU-cores for local use, but also acts as a gateway to the Life Sciences Grid that offers thousands of processors to scale up analytical capacities.