How an airway-on-a-chip model can help identify promising antivirals for COVID-19

One of the first focuses of organ-chip specialist Emulate (Boston) was to reduce the need for animal testing over time. Its technology can simulate tissue-tissue interfaces within organs using human cells.

But the potential of the organ chips to yield mechanistic insights for drug discovery and understanding toxicities has become more evident over time. 

The pandemic has underscored that promise, highlighting the potential of Emulate’s technology for drug discovery and vaccine testing. 

A spinout of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Emulate’s human airway chip culture was highlighted earlier this year in Nature Biomedical Engineering. 

Created with microchip manufacturing techniques and microfluidic culture technology, Emulate’s organ chips contain living human cells that simulate organ-level functions. The organ chips can “recreate tissue-tissue interfaces, which is what defines an organ,” said Dr. D…

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Why Emulate launched a colon intestine chip

Colon chip from Emulate

Emulate has debuted what it terms a “colon intestine chip” targeted at pharma and biotech companies, academics and other researchers. The company believes the system will accelerate the identification of drug candidates to treat inflammatory damage in the colon.

The technology could be a boon for understanding inflammatory bowel disease, which approximately 1.6 million people in the U.S. About 70,000 cases of the disease are diagnosed annually, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Many of those cases don’t respond to therapy, according to Lorna Ewart, executive vice president of science.

Emulate’s new intestine model combines human colonic organoids and supportive colonic endothelial cells to create an environment that simulates peristalsis.

In the following interview, Ewart describes potential applications of the new colon platform, touche…

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Organ-chips could streamline drug development, but hurdles remain

Emulate Bio’s CHIP-S1

While organ-on-a-chip technology has evolved tremendously over the past 15 years, adoption of the technology remains at an early stage. But as organ-chip technology advances and the R&D costs for pharma companies continue to hover near unsustainable levels, organ-on-a-chip technology has the promise to address what cell biologist and bioengineer Donald Ingber called the “broken” drug-development model. 

One of the key challenges is the drug industry’s reliance on animal studies in preclinical research, Ingber said in an Emulate Bio virtual event. “There are ethical issues,” said Ingber, a member of the company’s board of directors. “But the real problem is that the results of these animal preclinical models often don’t predict clinical responses,” he added. 

Get the full story from our sister site, Drug Discovery & Development. 

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