Getting new drug therapies approved remains costly and time-consuming. ‘Organ-on-a-chip’ technology is an important and growing field that could address this challenge. It uses bioengineering techniques to mimic neural, liver, lung and other organ functions outside the body. The Therapeutic Technologies Hallmark Research Initiative focused on new applications of this, and other mechano-pharmacology technologies, to transform drug-screening processes.
The initiative achieved much in its three years of operation, including:
- Delivering an annual science communication workshop for research students
- Offering numerous seminars, symposia and workshops for university staff and students
- Developing an extensive network of researchers in the therapeutic technologies field
- Engaging with industry partners
- Supporting numerous interdisciplinary research projects through seed-funding.
Importantly, these activities paved the way for a new ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Personalised Therapeutics Technologies. The centre now fosters a vibrant and sustainable industry of researchers, using organ-on-a-chip and bioprinting technologies. It aims to advance and deploy new technologies that will:
- Remove long-standing barriers to new drug discovery and development
- Provide opportunities for highly effective personalised treatments.
The Therapeutic Technologies Hallmark Research Initiative was announced in 2015, with funding from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research for three years. Professor Alastair Stewart and Dr Susan Northfield, former Chair and Academic Convenor respectively, remain involved with an active community of researchers in this field at the University.
The initiative was established to bring together a unique group of highly experienced scientists to engage with industry. Researchers came from a range of disciplines (including pharmacology, engineering, physics, chemistry) and several faculties.
The initiative focused on new applications of mechano-pharmacology and organ-on-a-chip technology to transform drug-screening processes. It selected three research themes as areas of focus:
- Cell/Tissue/Organ-on-a-chip drug screening technology – drug evaluation
- Cellular biomechanics – Mechano-pharmacology
- Stem cells and disease modelling.
Image: Philip Ezze/Unsplash
First published on 27 April 2022.
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