Cincinnati Children's Blog

Cincinnati Children’s Awarded Research Grant to Help Predict Drug Safety

Today the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that James M. Wells, PhD at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is one of 17 investigators nationwide to receive a grant from a $13 million research fund to study the development of human tissue chips for drug screening purposes.

The NIH, in collaboration with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is leading an initiative – the NIH Tissue Chip for Drug Screening — to improve the process for predicting whether drugs will be safe in humans.

The goal is to develop 3-D human tissue chips that accurately model the structure and function of human organs, such as the lung, liver and heart.

Once developed, researchers can use the tissue chips to test drug candidates and help predict safety in human studies more rapidly and cost-effectively than current methods.

Over 30 percent of promising medications fail in human clinical trials because they are determined to be toxic despite promising pre-clinical studies in animal models. (1)

Tissue chips may enable scientists to predict more accurately the toxic effects of potential therapeutic drugs because they use human cells capable of mimicking an organ’s structure and function.

Dr. Wells’ research will be focused on generating human intestinal organoids with an enteric nervous system to allow for cellular and molecular gut motility studies in humans to serve as a screening platform for drugs that regulate motility.

Gastrointestinal motility/functional disorders affect up to 25 percent of the U.S. population, but few drugs target the primary deficiencies in controlled peristalsis, the muscle contractions that transport food and waste through the body’s digestive tract.

The NIH Tissue Chip for Drug Screening initiative marks the first interagency collaboration launched by NIH’s newly created center, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). The NCATS aims to catalyze the generation of innovative methods and technologies that will enhance the development, testing and implementation of diagnostics and therapeutics across a wide range of human diseases and conditions.

Learn more about the 2012 Tissue Chip Award Projects.

(1) Kola, I., Landis, J. Can the pharmaceutical industry reduce attrition rates? Nat Rev Drug Discov, 2004; 3(8):711–715.


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