Creating Inherently Safer Materials

Kendeda Fund Supports Science, Collaboration, and Innovation

Cultivating New Partnerships

There are over 80,000 chemicals in everyday use, including many endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which in even small doses can interfere with hormonal systems. In 2003, the Kendeda Fund began strategizing with HEFN colleagues about reducing society’s toxic burden. It focused its own giving on improving capacity to create healthier products. This grantmaking was buoyed by green chemists’ vision for a toolbox enabling chemical designers and manufacturers to formulate inherently non-toxic chemicals.

After considerable investment embedding green chemistry into environmental health projects, the Kendeda Fund was approached by two grantees with a game-changing idea: cultivate a partnership across biology and chemistry to align their knowledge and effort. 

Collaborating and Innovating

In 2010 Environmental Health Sciences and Advancing Green Chemistry convened leading biologists and green chemists.  They aimed to develop consensus on principles to guide scientists assessing potential EDCs, as well as a testing protocol for chemists designing new chemicals.

The convening launched a two-year intensive collaborative effort among scientific leaders, with support from the Kendeda Fund and other early investors, including the Cedar Tree Foundation, Forsythia Foundation, John Merck Fund, Johnson Family Foundation, Marisla Foundation, the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, and the Passport Foundation.

In 2013 this collaboration produced the Tiered Protocol for Endocrine Disruption (TiPED). TiPED is a breakthrough tool enabling chemists to test for endocrine disruption in progressively tougher trials, doing toxicity trials in the design process rather than after a chemical is in products in the market. TiPED turns chemicals testing on its head, analyzing chemicals through increasing levels of scrutiny for safety instead of focusing on poorly-scoring chemicals.

Sharing Lessons Learned

TiPED’s findings were published in a peer-reviewed paper in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Green Chemistry. Next steps include testing four chemicals – three “approved” alternatives to known problematic chemicals and a new green chemical – to see how each performs. TiPED is encouraging more chemists to explore the tool.

Some key lessons for funders from the Kendeda Fund’s investment in TiPED:

  • Funder collaboration can shape a common understanding of complex challenges. Funders developed a base of knowledge about EDCs and green chemistry through HEFN-organized conversations that then helped guide later decisions to support TiPED.
  • Entrenched problems require bold solutions. Project leaders took a risk in convening scientists and asking them to approach their work in new ways. They needed space to initiate this dialogue without raising funder expectations about outcomes, and to balance opportunity and risk in the innovation process.
  • Process and program go hand-in-hand. A project that developed either a consensus statement or a new testing protocol alone would not have yielded the potential for impact that TiPED represents. Funders open to supporting both dialogue and tangible tools may get greater return on their investments.

TiPED is now open for business to help chemists design inherently safer chemicals and materials. The vision for and commitment to shared engagement holds great promise that scientists will innovate more tools like TiPED to fill the toolbox that can help repair our planet. 

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