22 October 2019

Dr. Gizelle Baker, PhD in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Director Global Scientific Engagement: So can you describe how toxicology has evolved and changed over time?

Dr. Davide Sciuscio, PhD in Toxicology, Manager Pre-Clinical Toxicology Evaluation: At the beginning toxicology was the science of poisons. Many civilizations actually have used these poisons, this knowledge, ancient Greeks, Romans, to shape their society.  A lot of kings, emperors have been killed with poisons. 

And something changed around the 15th century when the father of modern toxicology, Paracelsus, articulated the famous saying, “It’s the dose that makes the poison.” 

He believed that every substance actually is a poison and for every substance you can identify a dose which is harmful and a dose which is therapeutic or not harmful. 

And this concept actually survived over the last centuries and today it has been crystallized in some concept like the LD50 which is the lethal dose that kills 50% of the population exposed to that dose or the LOAEL, the lowest dose where you can observe an adverse effect. 

This concept has been extremely important, especially in the last century during the industrial revolution and also with the progress of chemistry. 

People were more and more exposed to different chemicals and so the knowledge of the toxicological properties of these chemicals was extremely important in order to protect public health. 

So, toxicology evolved from the science of poisons to the science of safety and that’s an evolution which has continued today.

Virtual tour in the Cube

Discover our research labs through an online tour

Take the tour