The BIO conference was great this year. The VIP tour was a little underwhelming as most of the booths seemed unprepared or unaware that we were even coming. That aside, I wanted to spend some time talking about a presentation by Geraldine A. Hamilton Ph.D., Senior Staff Scientist at the Havard Wyss Insitute.
The talk was focused on the group’s development of Organ-On-Chip technology. Briefly, organ tissue is studied in bio-mimetic conditions, meaning external forces like blood flow, mechanical expansion and contraction are all present while the tissue is being studied. Not only are they getting data that corresponds to full organ results, but the technology is scalable.
A surprisingly undiscussed advantage I see with the technology is that it provides a solution to a currently hot topic in the Biotech world related to patent length. Currently, drug companies are disgruntled that a large portion of their patent lifetimes are consumed by clinical trials – sometimes stretching over a decade.
A championed solution from the industry seems to be based around patent extension. I personally have many reservations for patent lifetime extensions, especially in the biotech industry – too many to discuss in this blog post. What I see in Hamilton’s new tech is perhaps a way to drastically reduce clinical trial times by testing drugs in near in-vivo environments across all organs AND without the economic and moral cost of animal testing. By reducing this clinical cycle, biotech companies get an effective increase in patent coverage without changing established patent laws in ways that could hurt the public’s best interest.
Another great advantage with this technology is the ability to test subsets of human populations with the potential to eventually have a testing ground for each individual! It is exciting to know personalized medicine can be realized in my lifetime.
Here is a video to explain more about the Organ-on-chip development being done right now. Unfortunately, it doesn’t dive into any of their interesting technical findings that Hamilton discussed at BIO:
Below is a rendering of the PMDS based testing cell for the lung-on-chip specimens.