Roche launches drug discovery center using human model systems
Roche is looking to use the newly set up institute to speed up drug development, by improving the understanding of how organs function and diseases develop.
The human model systems will allow for early testing of drug candidates and potentially create more effective analysis that could more accurately mirror drug interaction compared to animal models. In this way, the company expects the institute to potentially accelerate drug development.
In the long-term, the plan is for the institute to help reduce the reliance on animal testing. The human model systems are created from human stem cells, which can be constructed in 2D or 3D forms of tissues or organs.
Beyond testing drugs, the models could also enable the discovery of new human biology in health and disease, and the identification of potential drug targets that are not currently identifiable using existing discovery approaches, the company stated.
Roche plans for the Institute of Human Biology (IHB), which is based in Basel, Switzerland, to eventually house more than 250 scientists and bioengineers over the next four years
“Human model systems such as organoids are the future of our industry. They have the potential to enhance almost all the steps involved in the research and development of an innovative medicine. The IHB will address long-standing and urgent challenges in drug discovery and development with the ambition to bring more effective and safer medicines to patients faster,” said Hans Clevers, head of Pharma Research and Early Development at Roche.
According to Roche, the institute will bring researchers and scientists from across academia and the pharma industry to study human biology, and broadly advance the adoption of human model systems.
The institute’s exploratory research department is split into two teams, one working on development systems and computational biology, and the other on organoid gene editing.
The former sees research being conducted on how cells are established during organ formation, how cells organize themselves in complex microenvironments, and how disrupted cell ecosystems can lead to disease.
The latter team is working on using CRISPR gene editing tools to create isogenic disease models, and to provide synthetic features to organoids. As a result of the engineered organoids, the institute will be able to study cell fate specification in different epithelial tissues, and to explore the biology of rare intestinal cell types.