BARDA’s Division of Research, Innovation, and Ventures (DRIVe) and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), part of the National Institutes of Health, are partnering with the Vunjak-Novakovic Laboratory at Columbia University to advance the development of microphysiological systems, also known as tissue chips technology, as part of the BARDA-NCATS ImmuneChip+ Program.
The Vunjak-Novakovic Laboratory is developing and validating a modular tissue chip system enabling studies of human immune responses to respiratory viral infection. The platform will enable modelling of the effects of coronavirus infection on different tissues over many weeks, including immune responses to the virus and the resulting tissue damage.
The goal of this project is to advance the capabilities of tissue chip technology as well as to enable personalized medical studies of patient-specific immune behaviors.
Led by Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, the lab’s diverse team of engineers, clinicians, and scientists are developing innovative tissue engineering technologies for improving human health. The Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering is interested in whole organ engineering for regenerative medicine, tissue models for biological research, and “organs-on-a-chip” platforms for disease modeling and drug development.
About the ImmuneChip+ Program
Tissue chip technologies can replicate components of vital human tissues and immune system functions and monitor their interactions. These microphysical systems (MPS) are 3D biophysical platforms comprised of cellular constructs that mimic the structure and function of human tissues and organs, including the lungs, liver, and heart.
Experts at BARDA and NCATS expect that the use of advanced MPS will increase the understanding of health and disease and enable more efficient assessment of promising potential biomedical interventions. Recent rapid advances in this field now make the prospect of MPS commercialization and broad usability more realistic. Key challenges remain, however, including difficulty of manufacturing, integrating, and using medically relevant sensors, and the combination of multiple tissues anchored by the immune system to model the human body’s response.
Accurately modeling human systems in vitro to test treatment effectiveness is a key step to accelerating the pace of medical countermeasure discovery and development. However, predicting and testing the effects of therapeutics during early non-clinical studies is difficult, costly, time-consuming, and can fail to anticipate side effects in people. To safely and quickly evaluate a drug’s effectiveness and toxicity, researchers could utilize MPS in the early stages of studies. MPS may serve as a predictive tool in the drug development process, aid the screening of signaling molecules and drug targets, and help develop precision medicine-based therapies.