Applied exposome programme: connecting the dots for effective prevention of disease

Our health is impacted by the environment we grow up, live, work, sport, sleep and relax in. The combination of exposures over our lifetime constitutes a major risk factor for the development of disease. This has given rise to the concept “exposome”; the totality of exposures people experience during their lifetime and how their bodies responds to them. Within the Applied Exposome Programme, TNO is working together with partners on technology and methods to monitor and interpret these exposures, relate them to health effects and to explore effective methods of prevention.

Many common disorders are closely linked to exposures that range from lifestyle factors, to chemical exposures, social interactions and stress. Collectively, these exposures have a huge health impact on society. They contribute to the development and progression of diseases like cancer and respiratory and cardiovascular disease. However, many exposures can potentially be modified to prevent disease. Unfortunately, the complex interrelation between exposures and effects poses scientific challenges. For example, we often cannot explain why one person will develop a certain disease while another won’t.


The exposome concept can help bridge this gap in knowledge. A better understanding of how combinations of exposures (external exposome) drive biological changes within the body (internal exposome) and lead to health effects, will enable us to develop collective public-health and personalised-intervention strategies.


Now the time is right for a transition from basic research to the first applications for health promotion. Exactly for that purpose TNO has started the Applied Exposome Programme. Although the exposome concept is very appealing and promising, in many respects it is also very challenging. The exposome is multifaceted and also varies over time. Uncovering a person’s exposome requires capturing a complete exposure profile. This includes the variety and dynamics of both external exposures and biological responses, at individual level and over prolonged periods of time. Several emerging technologies can contribute to uncovering the exposome. The ultimate scientific challenge is to combine these technologies to achieve optimum insight into the exposome and its association with health.


Within the context of the TNO Applied Exposome Programme we work on:
• Measuring the exposome: In which we are developing innovative exposure-measurement techniques to collect and interpret more complete individual external and internal exposure profiles.

• Data analytics: Whereby we are developing data infrastructures, data-processing tools and advanced data-analysis techniques to give us insights into which exposures occur when, where and why and for whom, as well as under which internal and external circumstances diseases can develop.

• Development of preventive tools: With which we aim to develop preventive tools which transform exposome data into actionable effective feedback and advice.

Within the Applied Exposome Programme we are focusing on high risk-populations. These include vulnerable groups like children and patients, and groups at risk for high exposure levels like workers and urban citizens.


We have a strategic partnership with the Utrecht Exposome Hub on exposome research.


At TNO we can contribute to these developments, thanks to our multidisciplinary nature and our in-house experts ranging from sensor developers to exposure scientists and from systems biologists to behavioural scientists. Additionally, we can initiate and stimulate the kind of public-private partnerships that are essential for taking this field further, towards applications. To realise our ambitions we would like to connect our knowledge and experience with academic, private and end-user partners. If you would like to know more about our exposome activities or collaborate with us, get in touch with us.

Video explaining the Exposoom

More about the Exposoom and our programme

Download the Whitepaper
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