AstraZeneca has announced a collaboration with Emulate to develop and embed the start-up’s Organs-on-Chips technology within its Innovative Medicines and Early Development (IMED)  Drug Safety organisation laboratories.

The collaboration first began in 2013, with recent work published during the Society of Toxicology annual meeting in March.

Under the terms of the agreement, Emulate will co-locate scientists within AstraZeneca’s labs, while its technology will be adopted across the pharma firm’s therapeutic areas.

Three of Emulate’s Organ-Chips are to be investigated for development: the Lung Tumour-Chip, Lung-Chip and Glomerulus Kidney-Chip. In addition to the Organ-Chips, the technology includes instrumentation and software apps.

The proprietary chips are designed as micro-environments that mimic the physiology and mechanical forces of cells within the human body. Each of the chips, approximately the size of an AA battery, contains hollow channels lined with tens of thousands of living human cells and tissues.

“We are seeing strong momentum for the adoption of our technology in the pharmaceutical industry,” Emulate president and chief scientific officer Geraldine Hamilton told Drug Development Technology

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“A particular area of expansion in the near-term is to extend the use of our products to enable modelling of diseases, to gain new insights into the mechanisms of disease to help researchers discover new drug targets and then design new medicines.”

Based on the Organs-on-Chips technology, Emulate created its Human Emulation System, which offers a real-time view into the processes of human biology and disease. Such an approach allows a more precise prediction of human response to drugs than current methods of cell culture or animal testing allow.

“Over the next five years, we expect progress with standardising our Human Emulation System as the technology platform for use by drug developers and by regulatory agencies,” Hamilton said.

“In the future, we also envision applications of our products for use in personalised drug safety and precision medicine.”

The technology could also reduce the use of animals for research, in addition lowering the length and cost  of drug development and delivery.

Drug candidates from AstraZeneca’s portfolio will first be examined using Emulate’s Liver-Chip, with the goal of submitting Organ-Chip data within the regulatory framework for new drugs.

“Based on more than five years working with this technology, AstraZeneca is now looking at applying it across all of our therapy areas to study safety and efficacy of new drug candidates,” AstraZeneca’s Microphysiological Systems Centre head Dr Lorna Ewart told Drug Development Technology.

“Our aims for the future are to improve R&D decision making by more accurately predicting the adverse and non-adverse effects of new drug candidates, as well as gain deeper insights into disease mechanisms, with the overall goal to accelerate drug discovery.”