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Hebrew U professor spins out ‘liver-on-a-chip’ that can detect unexpected side effects of drugs and cosmetics

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: August 9th, 2017

A professor from Hebrew University of Jerusalem has spun out a novel “liver-on-a-chip” technology that can predict the toxicity of new drugs seeking FDA approval.

Pharmaceutical companies spend an average of $2.5 billion to develop a single drug, yet roughly 16% of all FDA-approved drugs eventually show unexpected toxicity and some drugs have to be pulled from the market even after undergoing successful clinical studies and regulatory approval.

In 2016, Hebrew University professor Yaakov Nahmias used his liver-on-a-chip platform to reveal how a Type 2 diabetes drug known as troglitazone, even in low concentrations, may cause liver stress before any damage could otherwise be seen. Six years prior, one in every 60,000 users of the drug had experienced unexplained liver damage. Nahmias was the first to detect the cause of affliction.

Now he has licensed the technology from the university to form the startup Tissue Dynamics, which will provide toxicology analysis for drug developers and cosmetics companies. Its first customer was L’Oréal, with other major brands such as Unilever expected to sign on as they seek alternative methods now that animal testing has been prohibited by European law.

According to Nahmias, other companies are offering similar technologies, but they are focused on mimicking animal experiments. “They place cells in a device, give it drugs and then open it to look at damage or death, which is what people are used to doing with lab animals,” he says. “This is a major disadvantage because those human-on-chip models can only find the type of damage you predict is going to happen. It doesn’t find the unexplained responses, and that’s the biggest problem for the pharmaceutical sector.”

Nahmias expects that by 2018, Tissue Dynamics will offer chips that simulate a pumping human heart and a human brain with functional neurons embedded with vasculature.

Source: The Tower

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