There is an urgent need to refine strategies for testing the safety of chemical compounds. This need arises both from the financial and ethical costs of animal tests, but also from the opportunities presented by new in-vitro and in-silico alternatives. Here we explore the mathematical theory underpinning the formulation of optimal testing strategies in toxicology. We show how the costs and imprecisions of the various tests, and the variability in exposures and responses of individuals, can be assembled rationally to form a Markov Decision Problem. We compute the corresponding optimal policies using well developed theory based on Dynamic Programming, thereby identifying and overcoming some methodological and logical inconsistencies which may exist in the current toxicological testing. By illustrating our methods for two simple but readily generalisable examples we show how so-called integrated testing strategies, where information of different precisions from different sources is combined and where different initial test outcomes lead to different sets of future tests, can arise naturally as optimal policies.
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- Optimal integrated testing strategies
- Dynamic programming