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January 2013: HepaChip® Improves the Drug Development Process

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January 2013: HepaChip®  Improves the Drug Development Process

Scientists at the Natural and Medical Sciences Institute (NMI) at the University of Tübingen in Reutlingen have developed the HepaChip®, a novel platform for pre-clinical drug testing. It combines methods from biotechnology and micro-system technology to significantly improve the detection of adverse side effects of drug candidates. Unlike any other cell culture system currently available, in the HepaChip® cells from the human liver are actively arranged within a microfluidic system to form small micro-organs by means of electric fields. Cell-cell interactions and perfusion closely resemble the composition and function of liver sinusoids, the smallest functional units of the liver.

Today, the cost for developing and approving new drugs exceeds $1 billion. Especially toxic side effects, such as liver damage, and low efficiency of drug candidates pose a major problem as they often cannot be detected by tests currently employed utilizing cells or animals. The HepaChip® will improve the drug development process by enabling the assessment of a candidate’s safety prior to risky and expensive tests on patients in clinical studies. In addition, it will help to reduce the number of animal experiments which are too often inadequate for predicting human health risks.

Collaboration projects initiated by NMI are under way with the University of Leipzig as well as industrial partners (microfluidic ChipShop, Ionovation, European Screening Port, AnalytiCon Discovery). These projects are being funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The NMI also plans to spin-off a company to exploit the HepaChip® technology.

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