Archive Department News

May 2021

If you cannot travel in person, travel virtually: Beate presented at the Northwest Fischeries Science Center in Seattle about application of bioassays for water quality monitoring.

Announcement presentation Fishery

Congratulations to Dr. Fabian Fischer, who was awarded the “Promotionspreis auf dem Gebiet der Wasserchemie” 2020 for his PhD dissertation, which he presented at the virtual “Wasser 21” conference.

Award Fabian "Wasser 21" May 2021

April 2021

We welcome three new team members in March 2021. Weiping Qin joined us with a Chinese Scholarship Council grant to do her PhD on the topic of in vitro toxicology and exposure assessment of perfluorinated compounds. Dr. Andrea Gärtner joined as a postdoc to work on mixtures on metals and organics and Fritz Kramer will do research towards his Master thesis in Molecular Medicine at the University of Jena.

March 2021

Our Master Student Audrey Ogefere from Potsdam University, who was supervised by Luise Henneberger, defended her Master thesis "The pH-Dependent Toxicity of Pharmaceuticals in In Vitro Cell-based Bioassays” successfully in a Zoom meeting on 5 March 2021- although we could not be with you, we send our congratulations via the web!

Audrey's defence

November 2020

We congratulate Max Müller to successfully passing his doctoral exam at University of Tübingen with his thesis “Organic micropollutants in small river systems – Occurrence, fate and effect”. He performed the effect part of his study in the department Cell Toxicology at UFZ.

Max's graduation

September 2020

We had our department retreat in a bit of simplified way this year to comply with the COVID-19 hygiene measures. We explored each department member’s career trajectory and had some fun with mini-golf in the afternoon.

retreat cell tox 2020
Minigolf Zelltox Sept. 2020

August 2020 

Due to COVID-19, the CAMPOS International Conference 2020 "Turnover of Diffuse Pollutants on the Catchment Scale” had to be cancelled but a virtuel poster session of the CAMPOS Conference was launched where you can also find contributions from Celltox in collaboration with Tübingen University.

July 2020

Since July, 1st, Julia Huchthausen, Luise Henneberger and Beate Escher are working in a third-party funded project financed by Unilever on the development of in vitro testing strategies for unstable chemicals.

Mai 2020

The Global Water Research Coalition (GWRC) project on Effect Based Monitoring (EBM) in Water Safety Planning was started in October 2019 and UFZ is responsible for the Workpackage 3, on applicability of EBM tools and methods. The first deliverable from the project, a factsheet on “the use of effect-based monitoring for the assessment of risks of low-level mixtures of chemical in water on man and the environment” is now available on the GWRC website.

March 2020

Due to the pandemic our team has also moved to home office to make our contribution to stop the spreading of COVID19. We can be reached by e-mail and via videoconferencing. While chemical pollution is not in the centre of attention today, it remains an ongoing issue and our work will continue to contribute to a future without chemical pollution.

February 2020

Read the new Science special issue on "Chemistry for tomorrow’s earth” on with a contribution from our department on “Tracking complex mixtures of chemicals in our changing environment" Beate I. Escher, Heather M. Stapleton, and Emma L. Schymanski (2020): Tracking Complex Mixtures of Chemicals in our Changing Environment. Science,
and listen to the podcast on

January 2020

We farewell Dr. Annika Jahnke and her team who will move on to form an independent group in the Department of Ecological Chemistry and thank her and her team for the fruitful collaboration over the last five years. At the same time we welcome Dr. Luise Henneberger as the new group leader of the team “Bioassay exposure assessment”.

September 2019

Annika, Elisa, Christoph and Cedric arrived safely back in Singapore after their expedition across the Pacific. Read more about it in the blog. More information on the project Micro_fate can be found here.

Route of the expedition on the research vessel SONNE

August 2019

We farewell Jenny into her maternity leave and wish her all the best for the future!

Verabschiedung Jenny John in den Mutterschutz

July 2019

Luise Henneberger has published a method for experimental determination of partitioning of organic acids in biological materials: “C18-coated solid-phase microextraction fibers for the quantification of partitioning of organic acids to proteins, lipids, and cells”

June 2019

Our department is growing:
Sebastian Abel joined the team as a postdoc in April. He studies the human exposure using passive sampling devices.
Lili Niu is a scholarship holder of the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation and works on the bioavalability and toxicity of sediment-associated pollutants.

Welcome to the team!

May 2019

Department Head Beate Escher visited several Chinese Universities in April, among them Jinan University, Shanghai Ocean University and Being Normal University to deepen existing collaborations and for scientific

Beate Escher in China

April 2019

Department Head Beate Escher giving lectures on environmental and human heath risk assessment at Being Normal University during her trip to China.

Beate Escher giving lectures at Beijing Normal University.

March 2019

We have successfully celebrated the launch of CITEPro. Thanks to all involved for the good support. Further information can be found here.

CITEPro Launch

February 2019

Elisa Rojo-Nieto published the paper "Passive equilibrium sampling of hydrophobic organic compounds in homogenised fish tissues of low lipid content".

December 2018

We congratulate Fabian Fischer to the successful completion of his PhD thesis. He is the first Graduate of the Department of Cell Toxicology - dissertation available at
Wonderful to have you in our team as Postdoc, Dr. Fischer!

Annika Jahnke published the paper "Effect-based characterization of mixtures of environmental pollutants in diverse sediments” in the Emerging investigator series of the journal Environmental Science; Processes and Impacts:

Fabian Fischer's paper "Application of Experimental Polystyrene Partition Constants and Diffusion Coefficients to Predict the Sorption of Neutral Organic Chemicals to Multiwell Plates in in Vivo and in Vitro Bioassays" focuses on the chemical sorption to multiwell plates in in vitro and in vivo bioassays. It provides a model that predicts the chemical losses over time in various setups, which can used to enhance the quality of chemical dosing in bioassays. Link:

October 2018

Our collaborator Dr. Peta Neale and her work in the EU project SOLUTIONS was featured in the Daily Newspaper “The Australian”
Dr. Neale continues to collaborate with our department through her consultant company PNEC: Peta Neale Environmental Consulting.

A key paper for the understanding of the fate of chemicals in cell-based bioassays and their uptake into cells has just been published in "Chemical Research in Toxicology". Fabian Fischer showed, that uptake of neutral and ionised organics is sufficiently fast that bioassays with 24h exposure can be considered to have continuous constant exposure unless metabolism leads to depletion.

September 2018

Since June 1, 2018, Theo Wernicke has been a PhD student in our department. He deals with the topic "Passive sampling as a biomimetic proxy of the internal exposure of fish".

Jungeun Lee from South Korea joined our team on 1 August 2018 to do a PhD project on the development of neurotoxicity assays for environmental quality monitoring.

Welcome to the team Jungeun and Theo!

August 2018

The collaborative research centre 1253 CAMPOS ( harvests its first fruits: The PhD student Max Müller has published a study on the pollutant burden in the Ammer river. The Celltox bioassay lab has contributed all bioanalytical investigation to this study.

Müller ME, Escher BI, Schwientek M, Werneburg M, Zarfl C, Zwiener C. 2018. Combining in vitro reporter gene bioassays with chemical analysis to assess changes in the water quality along the Ammer River, Southwestern Germany. Environmental Science Europe 30:20.

link to:


We lead a team of researchers from the EU project SOLUTIONS and the NORMAN network who developed a method to derive effect-based trigger values by read across from existing environmental quality standards of the Water Framework Directive of the EU. These triggers will be essential for the application of effect-based methods for water quality assessment because they allow to differentiate acceptable from unacceptable water quality. The numerical EBT are preliminary, more work is required to improve the database for their derivation, but already now they are serving in research projects for monitoring purposes.

Escher, B.I., Ait-Aissa, S., Behnisch, P.A., Brack, W., Brion, F., Brouwer, A., Buchinger, S., Crawford, S., Hamers, T.H.M., Hettwer, K., Hilscherova, K., Hollert, H., Kase, R., Kienle, C., Legradi, J., Tuerk, J., van der Oost, R., Vermeirssen, E. and Neale, P.N. (2018). Effect-based trigger values for in vitro and in vivo bioassays performed on surface water extracts supporting the environmental quality standards (EQS) of the European Water Framework Directive. Science of the Total Environment, 628-629: 748-765.  

link to

July 2018

The Brief Review article "Reducing Uncertainty and Confronting Ignorance about the Possible Impacts of Weathering Plastic in the Marine Environment" in Environmental Science & Technology Letters was selected by the journal's editors as one of the Best Papers in 2017! Congratulations Dr. Annika Jahnke. (Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett. 2017, 4 (3), 85−90 DOI: 10.1021/acs.estlett.7b00008).

June 2018

We have teamed with Veolia Research and Innovation to investigate the water quality of Parisian drinking water. The low levels of disinfection byproducts were below any level of concern. Mixture toxicity modelling showed volatile DBPs had a minor contribution to effect. We were able to differentiate between effects of micropollutants from source water and effects from formed DPBs.
Hebert A, Felier C, Lecarpentier C, Neale P, Schlichting R, Thibert S, Escher B. 2018.
Bioanalytical assessment of adaptive stress responses in drinking water as a tool to differentiate between micropollutants and disinfection by-products. Water Res:revised version submitted October 2018.
Link to

May 2018

DoCE (Dosing for Controlled Exposure) – ‘Dosing strategies for characterising in vitro dose-responses with increased relevance for in vivo extrapolation’
Three teams have been awarded funding to carry out Phase 1 proof-of-concept studies*. Sponsored by Unilever and Shell, this Two Phase Challenge aims to establish improved methods and approaches to better account for bioavailability in vitro to enable robust QIVIVE.
Congratulations Dr. Luise Henneberger!

March 2018

The ERC-funded project "CHEMO-RISK- Chemometers for in situ risk assessment of mixtures of pollutants" started in May, 2017, at the Department Cell Toxicology. Two postdocs, a PhD student and a technician joined the group during the last months and have started working on their respective subprojects: a) thermodynamics of bioaccumulation assessment, b) suspect screening of a broad range of environmental pollutants using GC/Orbitrap high-resolution mass spectrometry and c) internal exposure in marine mammals. Welcome Elisa, Melis, Eva and Jörg! 

December 2017

Our PhD student Fabian Fischer’s first paper on an exposure model in high-throughput bioassays was featured by Chemical Research in Toxicology, with an Editor’s Choice Award and the journal title page of Issue 5:

Fischer, F., Henneberger, L., König, M., Bittermann, K., Linden, L., Goss, K.-U. and Escher, B. (2017). Modeling exposure in the Tox21 in vitro bioassays. Chemical Research in Toxicology, 30: 1197−1208.

May 2017

An international workshop brought together a goup of scientist working in the area of environmental toxicology and ecotoxicology to discuss how mechanistic understanding of the causal links between exposure and adverse effects on human health and the environment can be improved by integrating the exposome approach with the adverse outcome pathway (AOP) concept. This proposal supports the IP Exposome as well is a core component of the strategic goals of the department cell toxicology.

Escher, B.I., Hackermüller, J., Polte, T., Scholz, S., Aigner, A., Altenburger, R., Böhme, A., Bopp, S.K., Brack, W., Busch, W., Chadeau-Hyam, M., Covaci, A., Eisenträger, A., Galligan, J.J., Garcia-Reyero, N., Hartung, T., Hein, M., Herberth, G., Jahnke, A., Kleinjans, J., Klüver, N., Krauss, M., Lamoree, M., Lehmann, I., Luckenbach, T., Miller, G.W., Müller, A., Phillips, D.H., Reemtsma, T., Rolle-Kampczyk, U., Schüürmann, G., Schwikowski, B., Tan, Y.-M., Trump, S., Walter-Rohde, S. and Wambaugh, J.F. (2017). From the exposome to mechanistic understanding of chemical-induced adverse effects. Environment International, 99: 97-106.

The paper can be downloaded at

April 2017

The project "Paving the way for QIVIVE: from nominal to free to cellular concentrations in in vitro assays” funded by CEFIC LRI is a collaboration between our department, Dr. Nynke Kramer from Utrecht University and Prof. Philipp Mayer from Technical University of Denmark. The project was launched in February and involves Beate Escher, Luise Henneberger, Fabian Fischer and Rita Schlichting from the department Cell Toxicology.

January 2016

We welcome two new members to our Celltox family: Andreas Baumer will do a PhD project and Eva Reiter will write her final report with our support.

October 2016

We welcome two new members to our Celltox family: Isabel Keddi and Madlen Landmann will write their final reports with our support.

March 2016 

Our group is advancing the the use of polymer-based passive sampling and dosing. In the last weeks three new papers have been published that (a) outline a new approach for determination of polymer-water partition rations for superhydrophobic compounds, (b) a modified polymer with higher srptive capacity and (c) an application of the new partition constant for the determination of surfactant-water partition ratios of dioxins.

(a) Grant, S., Schacht, V., Escher, B.I., Hawker, D.W. and Gaus, C. (2016). Experimental Solubility Approach to Determine PDMS−Water Partition Constants and PDMS Activity Coefficients. Environmental Science & Technology, in press: 10.1021/acs.est.1025b04655.
(b) Durig, W., Blakey, I., Grant, S., Chambers, L., Escher, B.I., Weijs, L. and Gaus, C. (2016). New Polymer Passive Sampler for Sensitive Biomonitoring of Lipid-Rich Matrices. Environmental Science & Technology Letters, 3(2): 52-56.
(c) Schacht, V., Grant, S., Escher, B.I., Hawker, D.W. and Gaus, C. (2016). Solubility enhancement of dioxins and PCBs by surfactant monomers and micelles quantified with polymer depletion techniques. Chemosphere, 152: 99-106.

January 2016

This article outlines various strategies for quantifiable transfer of mixtures of organic contaminants from environmental samples into cell-based in vitro and low-complexity in vivo bioassays. We cover chemicals in water, sediment and biota processed using total extraction or polymer-based passive sampling combined with either solvent spiking or passive dosing.
Jahnke, A., Mayer P., Schäfer,S., Witt G., Haase N., Escher, B.I. (2016). Strategies for Transferring Mixtures of Organic Contaminants from Aquatic Environments into Bioassays. Environ.Sci.Technol.

The paper can be downloaded at

February 2016 

We have evaluated the cellular toxicity pathways of 50 structurally diverse drinking-water disinfection byproducts with a battery of reporter gene assays.
Stalter, D., O'Malley, E., von Gunten, U. and Escher, B.I. (2016). Fingerprinting the reactive toxicity pathways of 50 drinking water disinfection by-products. Water Research, 91: 19-30.
The paper can be downloaded at

December 2015 

We developed a passive dosing method which determines the sorption capacity of fat extracted from 5 species, which differ only very slightly. The paper can be downloaded at, Jahnke, A., Holmbäck, J., Andersson, R.A., Kierkegaard, A., Mayer, P. and MacLeod, M. (2015). Differences between Lipids Extracted from Five Species Are Not Sufficient To Explain Biomagnification of Nonpolar Organic Chemicals. Environ. Sci. Technol. Letters, 2: 193-197.

As of 1 December 2015 we welcome a new member to the Celltox family: Luise Henneberger has started as a postdoctoral researcher. She will work in an industry-funded research project that improves the quantitative exposure assessment in HTS cell-based bioassays and develops and implements methods for quantitative in vitro to in vivo extrapolation (QIVIVE).Welcome!

October 2015 

We designed an quantitative silicone sampling system to extraction bioaccumulative chemicals from blood. The paper can be downloaded at, Jin, L., Escher, B.I., Limpus, C. and Gaus, C. (2015). Coupling passive sampling with in vitro bioassays and chemical analysis to understand combined effects of bioaccumulative chemicals in blood of marine turtles. Chemosphere, 138: 292-299.

June 2015 

The SOLUTIONS team in our Australian Celltox lab has demonstrated that apparent antagonism can be observed in estrogenicity reporter gene assays if the binding between natural organic matter and estrogens, which decrease the available agonist concentrations in the assay are not accounted for.
For more information
Neale, P., Escher, B.I. and Leusch, F. (2015). Understanding the implications of dissolved organic carbon when assessing antagonism in vitro: An example with an estrogen receptor assay. Chemosphere, 135: 341-346.

As of 1 June 2015 we welcome two new members to the Celltox family: Dr. Rita Schlichting will support the implementation of the high-throughput platforms CITEPro and Lisa Brückner will do a PhD project within the framework of the EU project Intelligence-led Assessment of Pharmaceuticals in the Environment (iPiE).Welcome!

April 2015 

Our young department has its first own PhD student since April 1, 2015 . Nora Haase will seek to bridge the gap of polymer -based extraction of a complex mixture of environmental chemicals from fish tissues for characterization of mixture toxicity in cell -based bioassays. Welcome , Nora !

April 2015

Tattoo inks are considered to contain mainly insoluble pigments but simple experiments indicated that toxic components may be mobilised and induce adaptive stress responses in cell-based bioassays. Black ink contained polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and induced genotoxicity and oxidative stress responses but greatest response was found for red and yellow tattoo inks. For more information Neale, P.A., Stalter, D., Tang, J.Y.M. and Escher, B.I. (2015) Bioanalytical evidence that chemicals in tattoo ink can induce adaptive stress responses. Journal of Hazardous Materials 296, 192-200.

February 2015 

Our department has been participating in the project IPiE (intelligence-led assessment of pharmaceuticals in the environment) since February 2015.  25 partners from academia, public authorities and the pharmaceutical industry work together to improve prediction of the environmental effects of medicinal products that are still in the development process. In addition they want to establish prioritized lists for the risk assessment and the environmental (bio)Monitoring of pharmaceuticals which are already on the market. The project is funded with a budget of 10.2 million euros for 4 years  by the EU and the pharmaceutical industry through its innovative finding Initiative (IMI).

October 2014 

Beate Escher has been Head of Department of Cell Toxicology since 10.October 2014. She holds a professorship in Environmental Toxicology at Eberhard Karls University Tübingen.

August 2014 

Dr. Annika Jahnke started as new group leader in the Department Cell Toxicology. Annika’s research focuses on the combination of passive sampling of complex matrices with chemical analysis and bioanalytical tools. Welcome to the team, Annika!

June 2014

The new department of Cell Toxicology is presently hosted in the laboratories of Bioanalytical Ecotoxicology and Effect-Directed Analysis. Thanks everyone for giving us a head start!