Since its inception in 2017, the Mata Initiative has focused on revising OECD Test Guidelines (TG) and Guidance Documents (GD) to make them suitable for nano and advanced materials. These guidelines are crucial for both the industry and regulatory bodies in the assessment and testing of chemicals, playing a key role in the effective implementation of legislation. 

In March 2024 the Malta Initiative released its Malta Initiative Priority List. This will help ensure that the harmonised methods that are required in the near future for nano and other advanced materials will be available. Ensuring that innovations in materials can come to the market and comply with regulations requires collaboration between experts from science, industry and authorities to set priorities for which test methods are required. 

The Priority List has the aims of  

  • Helping make legislation implementable and supporting industry in effective regulatory compliance 

  • Providing guidance to funders for the support required for the next generation of Test Guidelines 

  • Encouraging scientists to develop the required methods and bring them through to OECD Test Guidelines 

  • Supporting the ongoing work of all Member Countries of the OECD relating to chemical safety 

The Malta Initiative Priority List is a list of prioritised actions to support the development and amendment of OECD TGs for advanced and nanomaterials. These are materials that have specific properties and behaviour due to their size, shape or structure. The List is a living document that will be updated every three years. It does not cover actions already ongoing in the OECD Test Guidelines Programme but highlights TGs that are still required. The Priority List has been brought together with the help of experts in the field of physical chemical properties, human and environmental toxicity and are representatives from industry, academia and regulatory bodies. 

As a member of the Malta Initiative Board the Nanotechnology Industries Association (NIA), a Brussels based trade association for the nanotechnology sector, has been working ensuring that the interests of the nanotechnology industrial sector are well represented. The NIA has been supportive of the Malta Initiative’s actions since its formation and is also a signatory of the Malta Initiative Position Paper that calls for a European Test Methods Strategy to ensure continuous financial support for the systematic development of OECD TGs.  

Lead author of the Malta Initiative Priority List, Elisabeth Heunisch of the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) says, “Nano and advanced materials can have wonderful functional properties due to their size, shape or other properties. But these same properties also mean that sometimes we need a new test to assess their safety, as the traditional chemical safety tests don’t work. The Priority List provides clear guidance for us to develop these tests and will be shared widely with the OECD, scientists, policymakers, regulators and industry to help guide their efforts.” 

“Industry needs the appropriate Test Guidelines to be available for their nanomaterials to comply with regulations,” says Blanca Suarez Merino, Director of Regulatory Affairs at the NIA. “In working on drawing up this priority list, the NIA aimed to prioritize and address the requirements of industry. Having the right Test Guidelines in place will help the whole sector bring new nanomaterials to the market that are safe, whilst not wasting time or money on ineffective testing. The NIA supports the recommendations made in the Malta Initiative Priority List and continues to be a full supporter of the Malta Initiative and its mission to ensure more efficient regulation for nano and other advanced materials.”