Texas A&M University’s Timothy D. Phillips, PhD, ATS, has won the 2014 Society of Toxicology (SOT) Translational Impact Award for his work on improving public health. The Translational Impact Award was developed in 2009 by SOT, a professional association of more than 7,700 toxicologists, to distinguish scientists whose research is in improving human health in areas of toxicological concern. Phillips will be formally presented with this peer-nominated award at SOT’s 53rd Annual Meeting and ToxExpo in Phoenix, Ariz., on March 23, and he will deliver a lecture at the meeting on March 26.

The SOT Translational Award recognizes Phillips for his pioneering research with dioctahedral smectite clays in the US and Africa. His research shows that the clays, which were used as medicine more than 2,000 years ago, can bind and render toxins, such as aflatoxin B1, harmless. Toxins like aflatoxin B1 are food-borne and are associated with liver disease and cancer. They cause the most damage in places like Asia and Africa, where food shortages lead people to eat contaminated food or feed it to their livestock, which means the toxicants are then passed along to humans through the animal’s milk or meat.

“Dr. Phillips is an internationally recognized leader in food safety and toxicology,” said nominator Dr. Jia-Sheng Wang, head of the Department of Environmental Health Science at the University of Georgia. “His research endeavors on detoxification of food-borne toxins with clay-based technology have greatly impacted food and feed safety.”

Phillips discovered that certain clays can be added to one’s diet, without harmful effects, to prevent the human digestive system from absorbing the aflatoxin. It is estimated that up to 10 percent of the world’s animal feeds now contain a clay-based sorbent that Phillips’ research developed. Clinical trials are underway to see if the product is safe for human use as well. Phillips and his team are also conducting research to see if clay can also serve as a solution for polluted drinking water.

"Dr. Phillips’ research is exemplary and is in perfect alignment with Texas A&M University’s One Health grand challenge—the recognition that animal health, human health, and environmental health are inextricably linked,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “Dr. Phillips is playing an important role in advancing the boundaries of One Health and in developing new ideas to ensure a safer, healthier world for animals and humans. We congratulate him on this prestigious and well-deserved award."

Phillips has been named a distinguished professor at Texas A&M University and holds the Reed Endowed Chair in Toxicology in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Since joining the faculty in 1979, he has published more than 185 papers. Phillips received his BS from Mississippi State University and his MS in science education and chemistry and his PhD in chemistry from the University of Southern Mississippi.