PRESENTATION ACS SPRING 2018: Using the US EPA’s CompTox Chemistry Dashboard for structure identification and non-targeted analyses

25 Mar

Using the US EPA’s CompTox Chemistry Dashboard for structure identification and non-targeted analyses

Antony J. Williams, Andrew D. McEachran, Seth Newton, Kristin Isaacs, Katherine Phillips, Nancy Baker, Christopher Grulke and Jon R. Sobus

High resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) and non-targeted analysis (NTA) are advancing the identification of emerging contaminants in environmental matrices, improving the means by which exposure analyses can be conducted. However, confidence in structure identification of unknowns in NTA presents challenges to analytical chemists. Structure identification requires integration of complementary data types such as reference databases, fragmentation prediction tools, and retention time prediction models. The goal of this research is to optimize and implement structure identification functionality within the US EPA’s CompTox Chemistry Dashboard, an open chemistry resource and web application containing data for ~760,000 substances. Rank-ordering the number of sources associated with chemical records within the Dashboard (Data Source Ranking) improves the identification of unknowns by bringing the most likely candidate structures to the top of a search results list. Database searching has been further optimized with the generation of MS-Ready Structures. MS-Ready structures are de-salted, stripped of stereochemistry, and mixture separated to replicate the form of a chemical observed via HRMS. Functionality to conduct batch searching of molecular formulae and monoisotopic masses was designed and released to improve searching efforts. Finally, a scoring-based identification scheme was developed, optimized, and surfaced via the Dashboard using multiple data streams contained within the database underlying the Dashboard. The scoring-based identification scheme improved the identification of unknowns over previous efforts using data source ranking alone. Combining these steps within an open chemistry resource provides a freely available software tool for structure identification and NTA. This abstract does not necessarily represent the views or policies of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


About tony

Antony (Tony) J. Williams received his BSc in 1985 from the University of Liverpool (UK) and PhD in 1988 from the University of London (UK). His PhD research interests were in studying the effects of high pressure on molecular motions within lubricant related systems using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. He moved to Ottawa, Canada to work for the National Research Council performing fundamental research on the electron paramagnetic resonance of radicals trapped in single crystals. Following his postdoctoral position he became the NMR Facility Manager for Ottawa University. Tony joined the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York as their NMR Technology Leader. He led the laboratory to develop quality control across multiple spectroscopy labs and helped establish walk-up laboratories providing NMR, LC-MS and other forms of spectroscopy to hundreds of chemists across multiple sites. This included the delivery of spectroscopic data to the desktop, automated processing and his initial interests in computer-assisted structure elucidation (CASE) systems. He also worked with a team to develop the worlds’ first web-based LIMS system, WIMS, capable of allowing chemical structure searching and spectral display. With his developing cheminformatic skills and passion for data management he left corporate America to join a small start-up company working out of Toronto, Canada. He joined ACD/Labs as their NMR Product Manager and various roles, including Chief Science Officer, during his 10 years with the company. His responsibilities included managing over 50 products at one time prior to developing a product management team, managing sales, marketing, technical support and technical services. ACD/Labs was one of Canada’s Fast 50 Tech Companies, and Forbes Fast 500 companies in 2001. His primary passions during his tenure with ACD/Labs was the continued adoption of web-based technologies and developing automated structure verification and elucidation platforms. While at ACD/Labs he suggested the possibility of developing a public resource for chemists attempting to integrate internet available chemical data. He finally pursued this vision with some close friends as a hobby project in the evenings and the result was the ChemSpider database ( Even while running out of a basement on hand built servers the website developed a large community following that eventually culminated in the acquisition of the website by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) based in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Tony joined the organization, together with some of the other ChemSpider team, and became their Vice President of Strategic Development. At RSC he continued to develop cheminformatics tools, specifically ChemSpider, and was the technical lead for the chemistry aspects of the Open PHACTS project (, a project focused on the delivery of open data, open source and open systems to support the pharmaceutical sciences. He was also the technical lead for the UK National Chemical Database Service ( and the RSC lead for the PharmaSea project ( attempting to identify novel natural products from the ocean. He left RSC in 2015 to become a Computational Chemist in the National Center of Computational Toxicology at the Environmental Protection Agency where he is bringing his skills to bear working with a team on the delivery of a new software architecture for the management and delivery of data, algorithms and visualization tools. The “Chemistry Dashboard” was released on April 1st, no fooling, at, and provides access to over 700,000 chemicals, experimental and predicted properties and a developing link network to support the environmental sciences. Tony remains passionate about computer-assisted structure elucidation and verification approaches and continues to publish in this area. He is also passionate about teaching scientists to benefit from the developing array of social networking tools for scientists and is known as the ChemConnector on the networks. Over the years he has had adjunct roles at a number of institutions and presently enjoys working with scientists at both UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University. He is widely published with over 200 papers and book chapters and was the recipient of the Jim Gray Award for eScience in 2012. In 2016 he was awarded the North Carolina ACS Distinguished Speaker Award.
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 25, 2018 in ACS Meetings


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.