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Lab Safety

Database of hazardous reactions launched

Tool allows scientists to submit and search for safety information not publicly cataloged elsewhere

by Jyllian Kemsley
March 14, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 12

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Credit: Pistoia Alliance
A screen shot of a reaction entry in the Chemical Safety Library.
Screen shot of a reaction entry in the Chemical Safety Library.
Credit: Pistoia Alliance
A screen shot of a reaction entry in the Chemical Safety Library.

A nonprofit group today released a database tool chemists can use to share information about hazardous chemical reactions. Called the Chemical Safety Library, the tool was developed by a group that included representatives from pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions.

“We feel this will be a valuable and unique set of data that is currently not available and should advance safety for all researchers,” says Carmen Nitsche, executive director for business development in North America at the Pistoia Alliance, which brings together companies, vendors, publishers, and academic groups to address research and development challenges in the life sciences industry.

The project started when chemists at Bristol-Myers Squibb were looking for a better way to catalog and share information about lab accidents and other adverse events. Eventually the project landed at Pistoia.

“I didn’t know if we were going to get any interest” in putting together the library, says Mark Manfredi, a business capability manager at Bristol-Myers Squibb. “But right from the first meeting, we had several organizations that were interested in participating.”

To use the Chemical Safety Library, chemists must first register for an account. They can then start entering reaction information, including specific reagents as well as reaction class, hazard category, scale, warning message, and additional information such as a literature reference. Pistoia worked with Millipore Sigma and Biovia to preload more than 75,000 reagents to help ensure accuracy. Library administrators review submitted reaction entries to ensure they are appropriate.

Chemists may search the library for particular reactions or reagents or even download the full data set. An organization could incorporate downloaded data into an electronic laboratory notebook system to issue an alert when a particular combination of reagents associated with a known hazard is entered. Bristol-Myers Squibb is already using the data in an electronic laboratory notebook system and an ordering system, Manfredi says.

Pistoia sees the current library tool as an experiment to gather information about the willingness of the community to populate and use the database, Nitsche says. Pistoia will analyze database use to determine the resources and technology needed to sustain the library long-term.

The library will be a “wonderful resource” for researchers to use as an additional source of information when doing hazard and risk assessments of experiments, comments Bettyann Howson, chair of the American Chemical Society’s Committee on Chemical Safety. ACS also publishes C&EN. C&EN plans to encourage scientists who submit safety letters to also enter the information into the Chemical Safety Library.

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