Blog | Organ-on-a-Chip Technology
How can we better predict how new drugs act in the human body? This was the main question when we started our publicly funded R&D project, Body-on-a-Chip (BoC), in 2012. Too many new and promising drugs fail in very late stages of the development process because they are not efficient or produce unwanted – sometimes even dangerous – side effects.
Our company InSphero, based in Switzerland and in the US, developed sand-grain-sized 3D microtissues which mimic human organs (such as the liver or pancreas, as well as many types of tumors) to address this unmet need. At InSphero, we are collaborating with all the top 10 pharmaceutical companies globally to improve the drug development process. Using and evaluating our 3D InSight™ Microtissue Platforms, we improve predictivity and biological relevance in drug discovery and safety testing.
“We can now test drugs on organ networks, instead of single organs, to better understand how they affect the human body as a whole”
Generous and visionary funding by the European Union allowed us to take the technology a step further. We created a polymer microfluidic chip that connects different 3D micro-organs and creates an abstract version of a human body, on a chip. This is how we can now test drugs on organ networks, instead of single organs, to better understand how they affect the human body as a whole. This means that animal testing in the future might become obsolete – or at least substantially reduced.
Our work was also internationally recognized by Global 3Rs Awards program and NC3R's.
Our Head of Platforms and Technologies, Olivier Frey, was invited in March 2018 to present the Akura™ Flow technology to the European Parliament in Brussels (more information here).
We are currently beta testing the Body-on-a-Chip (BoC) platform, baptized Akura™ Flow, with commercial prototypes. This is only two years after the project was successfully completed! Hoffmann La Roche Pharmaceuticals in Basel is one of the beta testers and uses the platform in-house to investigate liver-tumor interaction. The Akura™ Flow Human-on-a-Chip system was also a top contender for the Innovation Award at the 2018 Society of Laboratory Automation and Science Annual Meeting in San Diego, USA.
Thanks to the excellent collaboration in our EU-sponsored FET Open project, we were able to work with top experts in Europe. It also helped us build a strong international network to make fast progress toward commercialization. Our academic partner ETH, who designed and produced the microfluidic chip, is still working closely with industrial partner InSphero.
In return, InSphero recruited Dr. Olivier Frey to continue his excellent work after being the project leader for Body-on-a-Chip (BoC) at ETH. Together with a lean team, Olivier now develops next-generation microchips, instruments, and several applications ranging from efficacy to safety tests using the new technology.
The Body-on-a-Chip project allowed us to work on the next wave of innovation for the company. We, our academic partners and AstraZeneca, are proud to have made this project a success from start to commercial launch of a technology platform that will change the way new drugs are developed in the future: without animal testing.
More information about InSphero
More information on Akura™ Flow
This article was adapted from my blog post on the EU website. Thanks to the EU team for helping with editing this article.
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I was waiting for this to happen for a long time…it’s about time.
he field of microfluidics or lab-on-a-chip technology aims to improve and extend the possibilities of bioassays, cell biology and biomedical research based on the idea of miniaturization. Microfluidic systems allow more accurate modelling of physiological situations for both fundamental research and drug development, and enable systematic high-volume testing for various aspects of drug discovery.
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