Merck expands deal with 'organ-on-chip' tech firm Emulate

By Dan Stanton contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Zinco79/istock
Image: Zinco79/istock

Related tags: Pre-clinical development

Merck & Co. has expanded a partnership to use Emulate’s organ-on-chip technology to carry out predictive modelling of inflammatory processes.

About the size of a USB stick, Emulate’s organ-on-chip platforms contain tiny hollow channels lined with tens of thousands of living human cells and tissues and can be used in preclinical development as a simulation of how a potential drug candidate affects specific organs.

The R&D tech firm uses its models in a number of collaborations with Pharma firms, but has announced it is expanding a partnership with Merck (known as MSD outside North America) which will use the Small Airway Lung-Chip and Intestine-Chip to enable predictive modelling of inflammatory processes in the human lung and the gastrointestinal system.

“Merck will fund research programs using Emulate's Organ-Chips for certain Merck discovery programs in inflammatory diseases,”​ Geraldine Hamilton, Emulate’s President and CSO told Outsourcing-Pharma.com.

The relationship with Merck does not include any exclusivity, and financial details of the agreement have not been disclosed.

Predicting human response

Last year​, the Pharma firm inked a deal with Organova to use its 3D printed human liver model as a supplement to in vitro​ and preclinical animal testing.

However, Emulate’s technology offers “a whole new approach for predicting human response,”​ Hamilton said, “with greater precision and detail than today’s cell cultures and animal models.”

As such, pharma and CRO collaborators “are interested in the potential broad impact of Organ-Chips in the R&D process,”​ she continued.

While rival technologies, such as the liver-on-chip device being developed at Israel’s Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology hopes to replace animal testing in the preclinical stage, Hamilton said pharma and CRO collaborators are interested in the broader impact potential of Emulates’ Organ-Chips in the R&D process.

The platforms “tie together all the current models and data being generated to enable better prediction of human response,” ​she told us, adding they can also be used to identify potential new therapeutic targets.

“In addition, we can also better understand diseases with Organ-Chips offering a window into the inner workings of the human body; for example, a better understanding of human respiratory diseases with the Lung-Chip.”

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