Organ-chip developer Emulate raises $36M in VC funding

Emulate's lung-on-a-chip
Emulate has signed collaboration agreements with several Big Pharma companies to test the safety of drug candidates and develop chips for specific organs, diseases and processes. (Emulate)

Organ-on-a-chip developer Emulate has gathered $36 million in series C financing, and plans to expand its platform to include a wider range of disease models for drug efficacy testing.

The Boston-based company also hopes to use the proceeds to deepen the biological capabilities of its current suite of products, which mimic the physiology of the liver, intestines, lungs and brain, as well as model thrombosis and modulation of the immune system. The chips are about the size of a AA battery, and lined with microfluidic channels and living human cells and tissues.

The funding round was led by Founders Fund, with participation from ALS Investment Fund, SciFi VC, members of the GlassWall Syndicate Association and others.

“The dependence of drug development on animal models for safety and efficacy testing has hit a wall,” said Aaron VanDevender, chief scientist and principal at Founders Fund, who also joined Emulate’s board of directors.

“As therapeutic approaches become ever more precise and complex, the limitations of legacy animal models increasingly prevent accurate predictions of drug responses in humans,” VanDevender said in a statement. “This crisis has simultaneously put patients at risk of unpredictable side effects while inhibiting the approval of novel life-saving therapies.”

Emulate also plans to add new collaborative, digital analysis tools to its automated platform, the Human Emulation System, which is comprised of organ chips, instrumentation and software applications.

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“At this next stage of our company’s growth, we are expanding our product portfolio, as well as building our commercial-readiness and community support team to drive integration of our platform by early adopters in the pharmaceutical industry,” said Geraldine Hamilton, Emulate’s president and chief scientific officer.

“Based on our work with pharma companies, we now keenly understand how users wish to adopt our products across the entire R&D process, from discovery to the clinic,” Hamilton said.

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Emulate has signed collaboration agreements with several Big Pharma companies—recently with AstraZeneca’s early development unit to use Emulate’s Liver-Chip to test the safety of drug candidates. They also plan to develop chips modeling lung tumors and renal function.

The company also has partnerships with Roche, Takeda, Merck and Johnson & Johnson, as well as a cooperative research and development agreement with the FDA and a clinical collaboration with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.