Emulate and AstraZeneca’s Innovative Medicines and Early Development (IMED) Biotech Unit have formed a strategic agreement to embed Emulate’s Organs-on-Chips technology within the laboratories of the IMED Drug Safety organisation.

The companies hope the technology will improve prediction of human safety in trials and the efficacy of drug candidates. They will also use it to conduct studies aimed at gaining new insights into disease mechanisms.

As part of the agreement, Emulate will co-locate scientists within AstraZeneca’s laboratories. The new partners aim to accelerate the development of organ-chip technology and testing within the context of a pharmaceutical organisation.

AstraZeneca began collaborating on Emulate’s Organs-on-Chips technology in 2013. The technology consists of the organ-chips, instrumentation, and software apps. In the future, the system is expected to reduce the use of animal testing in research as well as cost and time of discovery and development.

AstraZeneca’s IMED Biotech Unit and global business development executive vice president Dr Mene Pangalos said: “Organs-on-Chips technology has the potential to enhance and accelerate our ability to translate science into innovative medicines for patients.

“Working side by side with Emulate scientists will enable us to better develop the platform and may improve our ability to predict adverse and non-adverse effects in humans. The partnership exemplifies how we are creating permeable research environments where our scientists work together to foster collaborative scientific advancement.”

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Emulate president and chief scientific officer Dr Geraldine Hamilton added: “We have developed momentum for the adoption of our technology in the pharmaceutical industry, and are establishing a model of how the Organ-on-Chips technology can be integrated into the labs and existing workflows of pharma and other industries.

“This partnership is an example of how we can progress towards our goal of increasing the success of drug discovery and development by providing a platform that recreates human-relevant biology. The research conducted with AstraZeneca will allow us to further develop and add greater functionality to our technology platform.”

An initial focus of the collaboration will see the use of Emulate’s liver-chip for safety testing of drug candidates across the AstraZeneca pipeline with the goal of submitting organ-chip data within the regulatory framework for new medications.

The terms of the agreement will also allow for Emulate’s technology to be used across AstraZeneca’s therapeutic areas, enabling the companies to develop functionality of three other Emulate organ-chips — a lung tumour chip, lung chip, and glomerulus kidney chip.