17 Companies Building the Future of Drug Development on a Chip

by Andrii Buvailo, PhD          Biopharma insight

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Topics: Emerging Technologies   
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In the early 2000s, the concept of organ-on-a-chip technology, also known as microphysiological systems, emerged as a way to replicate the structure and function of human organs in a laboratory setting. Donald E. Ingber, a bioengineer at Harvard University, was a key early player in this field, developing the first organ-on-a-chip models using microfabrication techniques. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) established the Tissue Chip for Drug Screening program in 2012, which stimulated the development of organ-on-a-chip technology. This program brought together researchers from various disciplines, such as biology, engineering, and materials science, to create organ-on-a-chip models for drug discovery and toxicity testing. In 2012, researchers at Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering created a "human-on-a-chip" platform that integrated multiple organ-on-a-chip models, including the lung, heart, liver, and blood-brain barrier. This system was able to simulate how different organs in the human body work together. This gave a more accurate picture of how the human body works

In 2017, the FDA announced a collaboration with the Wyss Institute to evaluate organ-on-a-chip technology for drug development and toxicity testing. This was a notable milestone when the FDA acknowledged organ-on-a-chip technology as a legitimate tool for drug development. Many companies, including MIMETAS, InSphero, and TARA Biosystems, have emerged in recent years to develop and commercialize organ-on-a-chip technology. These firms have created a variety of organ-on-a-chip models for a variety of applications, including drug development, disease research, and toxicity testing. Overall, organ-on-a-chip technology has progressed from simple 2D cell culture systems to more complex 3D systems capable of replicating the structure and function of multiple human organs. Even though the technology is still in its early stages, it has the potential to revolutionize drug development and disease research by creating more accurate and reliable models of how the human body works.


Convergence of technologies

Tissue engineering and microfabrication have converged to aid in the development of organ-on-a-chip technology. Early 2D monocultures have given way to more sophisticated 3D co-culture systems. By manipulating the cellular microenvironment and geometrical arrangement, researchers can now achieve cell polarization, direct cell-cell interaction, and the propagation of chemical and electrical signaling.

In addition, the handling of primary cell sources and the integration of these cells into artificial structures to promote organ-like functions have improved. The use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) promises personalization of organ-chips for patient-specific clinical trials and research on disease phenotypes and drug responses.

Microsystems technology, adapted from the integrated circuit industry, has also played a major role in the success of organ-on-a-chip tech. By transferring lithographic patterns, researchers can now fabricate nanoscale and microscale structures, resulting in a change in the way in vitro bioreactors and cell biological systems are conceived, run, and monitored.

Organ function in vitro can now be studied using organ-specific chips. Designed to mimic the organ's cellular and extracellular features in response to biochemical and physical cues, these chips maintain and simulate organ function.

Organ-on-chip systems are very important because they allow for multi-parametric readouts of organ function.

Artificial intelligence (AI). can play a significant role in organ-on-a-chip systems by analyzing large amounts of data generated by these systems and providing insights that would be difficult to obtain through manual methods. AI techniques such as machine learning, deep learning, and computer vision can be used to analyze images of cells and tissues on the chips, predict cellular behavior, and identify patterns and trends in the data.

One application of AI in organ-chip systems is in the development and optimization of the microfabrication techniques used to create the chips. AI algorithms can be used to design and optimize the microscale structures on the chips, such as the size and shape of the channels and the distribution of cells. 

AI can also be used to monitor and control the conditions on the chips, such as temperature, pH, and nutrient levels. This can help to ensure that the cells on the chips are kept in the optimal environment for growth and function. AI methods are essential for processing complex multimodal data obtainable from organ-on-a-chip systems.

Below, let's have a look at the 18 most innovative companies engineering organ-on-a-chip systems and related technologies in the United States, European countries, and Israel.



The company is based in the Netherlands and develops custom organ-on-a-chip solutions for in vitro testing, including their key products, inCHIPit and comPLATE. For instance, inCHIPit has an open well for tissues, a porous membrane, and a bottom compartment for oxygen and nutrient-delivering microchannels. This enables the longitudinal evaluation of organoid tissue cultures using microscope-compatible instruments.



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Topics: Emerging Technologies   

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