CAMBRIDGE, MA—One of the fast-growing areas of research in the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors is the human organ system. Miniature organs grown in the lab serve as helpful test subjects because they act like human tissues, allowing researchers to measure tissue function more accurately and more quickly than in traditional preclinical models that rely on animal and artificial models.
Now Draper’s Human Organ System is applying the same principle to a large-scale drug discovery platform that can test 96 organ tissues at the same time. “Running hundreds of experiments at once with an adaptable high-throughput microfluidic platform enables you to reduce the risk and cost of drug-development,” said Joseph Charest, who directs the Human Organ Initiative at Draper. “Draper is developing a human organ system for drug discovery and development that could limit and eventually replace animal testing.”
The organ-on-chip platform, called PREDICT96, is run in an incubator using microsensors to measure the functions of cells directly and collect data in real time. With Draper’s HOS, researchers can observe neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) or other molecules penetrate cells and tissues in real time, indicative of an inflammatory response. Animal testing cannot show this due to its limited resolution.
David O’Dowd, associate director of biomedical solutions at Draper, describes the HOS effort as both humanizing and accelerating the drug discovery process. “Pharmaceutical companies can use Draper’s high throughput platform to test new drugs, yielding more-accurate results earlier and more cost-effectively than preclinical or clinical trials. This will allow pharmaceutical companies to rapidly focus their efforts on candidates that have a higher likelihood of success.”
Draper has modeled liver, kidney and other organs and is partnering with Pfizer and Colgate-Palmolive to develop configurations of its HOS system.
Draper has designed and developed microelectronic components and systems going back to the mid-1980s. Our integrated, ultra-high density (iUHD) modules of heterogeneous components feature system functionality in the smallest form factor possible through integration of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology with Draper-developed custom packaging and interconnect technology. Draper continues to pioneer custom Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS), Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) and custom radio frequency components for both commercial (microfluidic platforms organ assist, drug development, etc.) and government (miniaturized data collection, new sensors, Micro-sats, etc.) applications. Draper features a complete in-house iUHD and MEMS fabrication capability and has existing relationships with many other MEMS and microelectronics fabrication facilities.
Draper’s Biomedical Solutions capability centers on the application of microsystems, miniaturized electronics, computational modeling, algorithm development and image and data analytics applied to a range of challenges in healthcare and related fields. Draper fills that critical engineering niche that is required to take research or critical requirements and prototype or manufacture realizable solutions. Some specific examples are MEMS, microfluidics and nanostructuring applied to the development of wearable and implantable medical devices, organ-assist devices and drug-delivery systems. Novel neural interfaces for prosthetics and for treatment of neurological conditions are being realized through a combination of integrated miniaturized electronics and microfabrication technologies.
Draper continues to develop its expertise in designing, characterizing and processing materials at the macro-, micro- and nanoscales. Understanding the physical properties and behaviors of materials at these various scales is vital to exploit them successfully in designing components or systems. This enables the development and integration of biomaterials, 3D printing and additive manufacturing, wafer fabrication, chemical and electrochemical materials and structural materials for application to system-level solutions required of government and commercial sponsors.