Roche and Take­da try on Em­u­late’s 'or­gan chip' tech for R&D

Two phar­ma gi­ants — Roche and Take­da — are buy­ing in­to a drug test­ing tech­nol­o­gy that wants to be the next gen­er­a­tion’s “lab rat,” ink­ing part­ner­ships with the tech’s mak­er to in­tro­duce the sys­tems to their R&D labs.

The tech, made by Wyss In­sti­tute spin­off Em­u­late, in­cludes small chips de­signed to hold liv­ing cells in cham­bers. These chips are en­gi­neered to recre­ate the en­vi­ron­ment cells might ex­pe­ri­ence in the hu­man body, in­tro­duc­ing me­chan­i­cal forces that mim­ic breath­ing, for ex­am­ple.

Geral­dine Hamil­ton

Test­ing drugs in cells that are in dish­es — or even test­ing drugs in an­i­mals — is a flawed process, Em­u­late’s pres­i­dent and CSO Geral­dine Hamil­ton tells me. An­i­mals are not hu­mans, and so they of­ten fail to pre­dict how drugs will per­form in pa­tients. And cells in dish­es don’t work like they do in the hu­man body, so they aren’t very pre­dic­tive ei­ther.

Com­pa­nies have been work­ing on bet­ter ways to test drugs for a while, with com­pa­nies like San Diego-based Organo­vo “bio­print­ing” hu­man tis­sue and Ste­moniX build­ing “mi­cro or­gans” by struc­tur­ing hu­man iP­SC-de­rived cells in­to mi­cro­tis­sues.

But Hamil­ton says both these tech­nolo­gies are lack­ing.

“There are key fac­tors miss­ing: me­chan­i­cal forces, dy­nam­ic flow sys­tems, cir­cu­lat­ing im­mune cells,” she says. “While they re­tain some nice bi­olo­gies, they’re miss­ing these el­e­ments.”

Em­u­late’s S-1 Or­gan-Chip tech­nol­o­gy. Pho­to cour­tesy of Em­u­late.

Now Roche and Take­da are pay­ing to take Em­u­late’s tech for a test dri­ve. Roche will use Em­u­late’s Hu­man Em­u­la­tion Sys­tem across mul­ti­ple R&D pro­grams in a three-year part­ner­ship, with the aim of dis­cov­er­ing and de­vel­op­ing new class­es of ther­a­peu­tic an­ti­bod­ies and drug com­bi­na­tions. One goal of the part­ner­ship is to use pa­tient-de­rived cells to make head­way on the idea of per­son­al­ized drug safe­ty, us­ing the chips to test how a pa­tient or pa­tient group might re­spond to a drug. Sci­en­tists from both com­pa­nies will work with­in Em­u­late’s labs in Boston. The re­search will ini­tial­ly fo­cus on us­ing Em­u­late’s “Lung-Chip” and “Brain-Chip,” with the op­por­tu­ni­ty to ex­pand to use oth­er “Or­gan-Chips.”

Take­da is specif­i­cal­ly us­ing Em­u­late’s “In­stes­tine-Chip” for gas­troin­testi­nal dis­ease R&D.

“The abil­i­ty to ac­cu­rate­ly mod­el the in­testi­nal ep­ithe­li­um is a key to open­ing up new in­sights in­to the com­plex path­ways of GI dis­eases and drug mech­a­nisms of ac­tion, and we are de­light­ed to ap­ply our In­tes­tine-Chip to sup­port drug in­no­va­tion with Take­da, a world leader in de­vel­op­ing treat­ments for GI dis­eases,” Hamil­ton said.

Fi­nan­cial de­tails of the part­ner­ships were not dis­closed.


Vil­li-like struc­tures in­side Em­u­late’s In­tes­tine-Chip, which will be used by Take­da in new part­ner­ship. Em­u­late

M&A: a crit­i­cal dri­ver for sus­tain­able top-line growth in health­care

2021 saw a record $600B in healthcare M&A activity. In 2022, there is an anticipated slowdown in activity, however, M&A prospects remain strong in the medium to long-term. What are future growth drivers for the healthcare sector? Where might we see innovations that drive M&A? RBC’s Andrew Callaway, Global Head, Healthcare Investment Banking discusses with Vito Sperduto, Global Co-Head, M&A.

15 LGBTQ lead­ers in bio­phar­ma; Paul Stof­fels’ Gala­pa­gos re­vamp; As­traZeneca catch­es up in AT­TR; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

A return to in-person conferences also marks a return to on-the-ground reporting. My colleagues Beth Synder Bulik and Nicole DeFeudis were on-site at Cannes Lions, bringing live coverage of pharma’s presence at the ad festival — accompanied by photos from Clara Bui, our virtual producer, that bring you right to the scene. You can find a recap (and links to all the stories) below.

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Abortion-rights protesters regroup and protest following Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Fol­low­ing SCO­TUS de­ci­sion to over­turn abor­tion pro­tec­tions, AG Gar­land says states can't ban the abor­tion pill

Following the Supreme Court’s historic decision on Friday to overturn Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to somewhat reassure women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.

Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an editorial strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “serves American families poorly, putting their health, safety, finances, and futures at risk.”

AstraZeneca's new Evusheld direct to consumer campaign aims to reach more immunocompromised patients.

As­traZeneca de­buts first con­sumer cam­paign for its Covid-19 pro­phy­lac­tic Evusheld — and a first for EUA drugs

AstraZeneca’s first consumer ad for Evusheld is also a first for drugs that have been granted emergency use authorizations during the pandemic.

The first DTC ad for a medicine under emergency approval, the Evusheld campaign launching this week aims to raise awareness among immunocompromised patients — and spur more use.

Evusheld nabbed emergency authorization in December, however, despite millions of immunocompromised people looking for a solution and now more widespread availability of the drug.

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GSK says its drug for chron­ic hep B could ‘lead to a func­tion­al cure’ — but will it be alone or in com­bi­na­tion?

GSK, newly branded and soon-to-be demerged, shared interim results from its Phase II trial on its chronic hepatitis B treatment, one that it says has the “potential to lead to a functional cure.”

At a presentation at the EASL International Liver Congress, GSK shared that in around 450 patients who received its hep B drug bepirovirsen for 24 weeks, just under 30% had hepatitis B surface antigen and viral DNA levels that were too low to detect.

Sanofi, GSK tout 72% Omi­cron ef­fi­ca­cy in PhI­II tri­al of next-gen, bi­va­lent shot — with an eye to year-end roll­out

Sometimes, being late can give you an advantage.

That’s what Sanofi and GSK are trying to say as the Big Pharma partners report positive results from a late-stage trial of their next-gen bivalent Covid-19 vaccine, which was designed to protect against both the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Beta variant. Specifically, against Omicron, they note, the vaccine delivered 72% efficacy in all adults and 93.2% in those previously infected.

Matt Kapusta, uniQure CEO

In trou­bled Hunt­ing­ton’s space, uniQure’s gene ther­a­py shows ear­ly promise

In randomized clinical trial data from a small number of patients, Dutch biotech uniQure shared that its gene therapy for Huntington’s disease seems to reduce the amount of the mutant protein responsible for the disease over the course of a year.

In seven patients with early-stage Huntington’s — four who got the treatment and three who got a placebo — mutant huntingtin protein levels in the cerebrospinal fluid decreased by an average of just over 50% in patients who got the gene therapy compared to around a 17% drop in patients who got the placebo after a year.

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De­spite a slow start to the year for deals, PwC pre­dicts a flur­ry of ac­tiv­i­ty com­ing up

Despite whispers of a busy year for M&A, deal activity in the pharma space is actually down 30% on a semi-annualized basis, according to PwC’s latest report on deal activity. But don’t rule out larger deals in the second half of the year, the consultants said.

PwC pharmaceutical and life sciences consulting solutions leader Glenn Hunzinger expects to see Big Pharma companies picking up earlier stage companies to try and fill pipeline gaps ahead of a slew of big patent cliffs. Though a bear market continues to maul the biotech sector, Hunzinger said recent deals indicate that pharma companies are still paying above current trading prices.

Joe Wiley, Amryt Pharma CEO

Am­ryt Phar­ma sub­mits a for­mal dis­pute res­o­lu­tion to the FDA over re­ject­ed skin dis­ease drug

The story of Amryt Pharma’s candidate for the genetic skin condition epidermolysis bullosa, or EB, will soon enter another chapter.

After the Irish drugmaker’s candidate, dubbed Oleogel-S10 and marketed as Filsuvez, was handed a CRL earlier this year, the company announced in a press release that it plans to submit a formal dispute resolution request for the company’s NDA for Oleogel-S10.