30th anniversary of the Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment - RECETOX

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Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment (RECETOX) - an independent research and educational centre operating at the Faculty of Science of Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic - celebrates its 30th anniversary in November 2013.

The roots of the RECETOX centre run deep, back to November 8th, 1983. The Department of Formation and Protection of the Environment was then established within the Faculty of Science, Masaryk University. The core of the department’s work was complex ecologic research and analytical chemistry. Since then, studies of the characteristics, fate, transport and risks related to contamination of the environment by toxic chemicals have been performed.

The name of the department changed to the Department of Environmental Protection in 1987 and a project called TOCOEN (Toxic Organic Compounds in the Environment) was also established in the summer of the same year. It was an open scientific platform linking academia in the department with other (external) specialists in the Czech Republic and Slovakia to work on various environmental issues.
In addition, ecotoxicology and risk analyses came into focus during 1990s and broadened and further developed the expertise available in the department. New equipment was provided through a project of the PHARE EU programme and allowed for further expansion. The project thus established a Research Centre for Chemistry and Ecotoxicology that coordinated transfer of new environmental chemistry and ecotoxicology techniques to the Czech Republic and other EU countries (FITA Belgium project, 1993-1997).

The Centre of Biostatistics and Analyses detached from its parent department in 2001. This centre became the current Institute of Biostatistics and Analyses, a joint establishment of the Faculty of Science and Faculty of Medicine at the Masaryk University.

The Research Centre for Chemistry and Ecotoxicology started inventories of persistent chemicals in the environment in 2001. Two projects – an inventory of persistent organic pollutants in Europe (2001-2004, UNEP Chemicals) and the Preparation of the National Implementation Plan for the Stockholm Convention in the Czech Republic (2001-2003, UNIDO) – supported international activities performed by RECETOX. These were then followed by a framework agreement between RECETOX and the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic to establish the National Centre for Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2006 and endorse RECETOX as the Stockholm Convention Regional Centre for Capacity Building and the Transfer of Technology in Central and Eastern European countries in 2009.

Another significant international acknowledgement of our endeavours was the EU Centre of Excellence project – “RECETOX - Centre of Excellence in Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology” financed by the EU in 2003-2005. This project was followed by the INCHEMBIOL research project (INteractions among CHEMicals, environment and BIOlogical systems and their effects at the global, regional and national levels, 2007-2011) of fundamental research. The state of the art research infrastructure that RECETOX has at present was supported by the CETOCOEN project financed by EU Structural Funds, Operational Programme for Research and Development for Innovations (OP RDI).

RECETOX research infrastructure works in “open-access” mode for Czech and international researchers. The centre also supports monitoring and analyses of environmental contamination and training in 58 countries, and undertakes almost 50 research projects and 30 contract research projects per year. In addition, at least one international event takes place at RECETOX monthly.

In conclusion, over last 30 years RECETOX developed into an institution that provides education in three distinct majors: environmental chemistry, ecotoxicology and computational biology, and carries out research on contamination of the environment and effects on living organisms by toxic chemicals. The scope and breadth of its work has a significant international dimension and the focus is on transforming research results into practice.

We have grown from a single analytical chemistry laboratory into an establishment with four research programmes (environmental chemistry and modelling, organic photochemistry and supramolecular chemistry, protein engineering and ecotoxicology), three core units of research infrastructure (the laboratories of trace analyses, the GENASIS environmental data repository, and the ELSPAC epidemiological database), and two application centres supported by efficient management and administrative staff.

We should remember our past, appreciate the present and endeavour to improve in the future. To this end, have a look at the timeline marking various milestones of the RECETOX past and also have a look at our present below.

We should also celebrate RECETOX’s achievements, so if you want to join us, see the list of events that RECETOX is organising or co-organising to mark its 30th anniversary. We look forward to meeting you there!