Dr Piers Townsend

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  • Qualifications:MChem MRes PhD
  • Position:Lecturer in Environmental and Forensic Toxicology
  • Department:Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences (HAS)
  • Telephone:+44117 965 6261
  • Email:Piers.Townsend@uwe.ac.uk
  • Social media: LinkedIn logo

About me

Fundamentally, our ever-evolving world is continuously faced with new challenges to solve. I believe that interdisciplinarity and collaboration are vital in solving the next generation of scientific problems, and it is with this ethos that I pursue my work.

Since the start of my research career, my work has largely been focused on the use of computational chemistry in predictive toxicology. I thoroughly enjoy the experience of working with other people, and the process of interdisciplinary collaboration. From this enjoyment, I have contributed to a number of publications across a range of disciplines including toxicology, machine learning, molecular modelling and environmental science. 

Area of expertise

Traditionally, live (in vivo) animal testing has dominated chemical risk assessment across fields such as toxicology and drug discovery. However, animal testing carries a significant ethical burden, and experimental safety testing can often be time-consuming and financially costly. Importantly, without testing the safety of new and existing chemicals, new drugs can never reach the market, and we cannot be confident that on a global level, human health and the environment are safe from harm. Therefore, to ensure that chemicals are safe for humans and the environment, more ethical, cost effective, and sustainable approaches are becoming increasingly desired by the public, the pharmaceutical industry, and policy makers. This is where my work is focused.

Broadly speaking, I have expertise in building predictive computational models using tools from computational chemistry, cheminformatics, and machine learning. I build models with four primary goals in mind:

  1.  To supplement or replace existing in vivo animal experiments (in line with the three Rs).

  2.  To provide novel insight into the fundamental chemical mechanisms by which toxicity can occur (e.g. molecular initiating events (MIEs) and adverse outcome pathways (AOPs)).

  3.  To provide novel insight into how the chemical structure of a compound is linked to its function in a biological setting (QSARs and SAR). For example, why is one chemical toxic whilst another is safe?

  4. Where possible, to use quantum mechanical methods to study toxicant-target interactions. Quantum mechanics can provide unparalleled interpretability, and provides deep, fundamental insight into chemical interactions that are occurring at the atomic and sub-atomic scale.

If you are interested in in collaborating with me, please feel free to make contact.


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