DraperWhile vaccines have emerged as a central tool in battling the COVID-19 pandemic, the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to fuel waves of infections. 

COVID-19 antivirals could play a vital role in managing the disease in the future, and a handful are currently in use in the U.S. 

One possible way to accelerate the development of additional antivirals for COVID-19 and other respiratory viral infections is the availability of more accurate preclinical models. 

The nonprofit engineering innovation company Draper has released a study showing the power of combining human tissue models based on an organ-on-chip platform in a dynamic tissue microenvironment with input from microbiologists and bioengineers. 

In essence, the Cambridge, Massachusetts–based company has developed a human lung model known as PREDICT96-ALI that can gauge the efficacy of SARS-CoV-2 drugs, including antivirals. 

In the research published on the pre-print server bioRxiv, researchers explain how the system could help improve the accuracy of predicting which investigational drugs can make the successful leap from animal models to humans. 


[PREDICT96-ALI image courtesy of Draper]

In experiments, Draper scientists used the PREDICT96-ALI system to determine the differential efficacy of antivirals, including nirmatrelvir and ritonavir (Paxlovid), molnupiravir (Lagevrio) and remdesivir (Veklury) at various doses. 

After crunching roughly 3,000 data points, the PREDICT96-ALI system could estimate how effective the antivirals were in blocking viral replication in lung tissue models. 

In the long run, the system could help accelerate the development of novel COVID-19 therapies. 

“At Draper, we have created a predictive, preclinical tissue model of individuals impacted by serious respiratory diseases like COVID-19,” said Ashley Gard, corresponding author of the study, in a press release. “These systems can model the human response to SARS-CoV-2 and other infectious diseases.” 

Draper’s organ-on-a-chip technology has won growing support recently. The company counts Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squibb and Colgate-Palmolive. as organ-on-a-chip customers. 

Government agencies such as NIH, DoD and DARPA have also invested in Draper’s organ chips. 

The PREDICT96-ALI platform was featured in the journal Scientific Reports last year.