AstraZeneca teams with Emulate to use organ-on-a-chip tech for R&D

Emulate's lung-on-a-chip
AstraZeneca is partnering with Emulate to incorporate organ-on-a-chip technology into the pharma giant’s R&D program. (Emulate photo)

AstraZeneca is partnering with Emulate to incorporate organ-on-a-chip technology into the pharma giant’s R&D program with the aim of accelerating development of the technology within the company.

As part of the agreement, Emulate will have scientists working within AstraZeneca’s Innovative Medicines and Early Development Biotech Unit. The two companies first began working together in 2013. Recently, the two copublished their work during a Society of Toxicology meeting.

The company described an organ chip as a living, micro-engineered environment that recreates the natural physiology and mechanical forces that cells experience within the human body.

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"We have developed momentum for the adoption of our technology in the pharmaceutical industry, and are establishing a model of how the organ-on-chips technology can be integrated into the labs and existing workflows of pharma and other industries," Dr. Geraldine Hamilton, Emulate’s president and chief scientific officer, said in a statement. "This partnership is an example of how we can progress towards our goal of increasing the success of drug discovery and development by providing a platform that recreates human-relevant biology.”

Emulate’s tech, which was developed at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, centers on chips that are lined with human cells and are designed to mimic the chemical and mechanical characteristics of their target tissue. The tech for the devices is made possible due to the use of microchip fabrication processes, which are able to create tiny channels that—in the case of the lung-on-a-chip—house the artificial lung and also mimic inhalation and exhalation.

An initial phase of the agreement will use Emulate's Liver-Chip for safety testing of drug candidates in AstraZeneca’s pipeline with the aim of submitting the data within the regulatory framework for new drugs. The two companies eventually hope to develop Emulate’s Lung Tumor-Chip, Lung-Chip and Glomerulus Kidney-Chip.