Merck, GSK and AZ All Exploring Future Drug Candidates On Electronic/Biotic “Chipsets” — Models of Human Organs

Jonathan D. Rockoff, writing for the technology/med-tech section of The Wall Street Journal, overnight highlighted the potential uses for a “lung on a chip” device, to avoid blind alley research (and unduly cruel animal testing/destruction — on candidates very likely to fail).

Until FDA certifies the approach as reliable enough to be used as a precursor to human testing, though — it will simply be the precursor to animal model tests.

Even so, the idea holds great promise. Here’s a bit, from Mr. Rockoff — do go read it all:

. . . .Companies are starting to tinker with this new technology, mostly for internal decision-making, since health regulators haven’t yet authorized their use in decisions about whether a compound can enter human testing.

At Merck & Co.’s labs in Boston, researchers are looking at using microchips engineered to resemble a diseased lung in their hunt for a new asthma treatment.

Company scientists want to see whether these “lungs on a chip” can help them better understand the biology behind asthma and identify promising candidates for medicines, says Don Nicholson, who oversees Merck’s respiratory drug research.

If efforts like Merck’s pan out, drug makers could have a powerful new tool, and avoid wasting millions of dollars chasing compounds that will flame out. . . .

Depicted at right is the Wyss Institute’s “lung on a chip” device, its prototype “robo-bee” project, and the founder of the Institute, Hansjörg Wyss (Harvard MBA ’65). We will, of course, keep an eye on this — and the Institute, more broadly.

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