‘Human Emulation System’ as a Platform for Drug Discovery – Partnership with Roche

An example of an organ on a chip. Image: Wyss Institute
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The ‘Human Emulation System’ is an organ-on-chip technology developed by Emulate, Inc. The chips are made from transparent polymers and are about the size of an AA battery, though they are flat. They contain microfluidic channels that can be lined with human cells. Organs-on-chips technology model human biology by reconstructing the microenvironments that cells experience inside the body. For example, the chips can represent human organs such as the lung, liver, brain, intestine or kidney in health or disease states. The chips require cells and biobanks are a ready source. They can provide both patient specific diseased tissue and the raw materials for generating matched healthy controls – stem cells, such as adipose-derived Stem Cells (ASC) for example.

Emulate, Inc.  has formed a strategic partnership with F Hoffman La-Roche AG (Roche) that will use the Human Emulation System across R&D programs to enable preclinical studies. The partnership which also includes the use of software is intended to lead to earlier and better prediction of safety and efficacy of drug candidates, particularly in immune-oncology. Other applications will include gaining insight into disease mechanisms, biomarker research, and working towards a reduction in the use of animals in preclinical testing. An additional goal of the partnership is to make progress towards personalized medicine with strategies for drug safety and efficacy prediction in individual patients.

The pharmaceutical industry remains under huge pressure to address the high attrition rates in drug development, with a success rate of just 9.6% of drugs that enter phase I clinical trials eventually being FDA approved during the period 2006 – 2015. It is thought that a component of this low success rate is due to the poor relevance, to human clinical trials, of preclinical data largely generated from animal models. The partnership represents an effort to increase the use of human models preclinically.

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