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Increasing biological relevance in vitro: From single microtissues to micro-physiological systems

Cell-based assays have become an inherent part in drug discovery and development to predict the in vivo response to biologicals and chemicals. Cells are used throughout the whole developmental chain as a test system:

(i) drug target validation

(ii) primary and secondary screening set up’s

(iii) lead optimization

(iv) toxicological profiling

Current standard technology is based on the culture of mammalian cells, either primary or cell lines, as monolayers in plastic dishes. However, to gain the maximum benefit of in vitro cell cultures for drug de-risking, cells have to be maintained in a format which reflects in vivo cellular functionality, either animal or human, as closely as possible. To further increase in the value of in vitro models, technologies which allow direct cell-cell and inter-tissue communication are essential. Therefore, advanced 3D cell culture models are gaining momentum as the development of new therapeutics is a time and cost intensive process profiting from better drug de-risking. With this objective, scalable and automation-compatible tissue engineering strategies are being exploited to further improve the predictive power of cell-based assays. Here microtissue technology is being presented which allows on the one hand high throughput efficacy and safety testing and on the other flexible design of microphysiological systems.


Dr. Jens M. Kelm, InSphero AG, Schlieren

Chief technology officer (CTO) and co-founder of InSphero AG, Zurich, Switzerland and co-founder of the Swiss competence center for "Tissue Engineering for Drug Development TEDD": 14 years experience in 3D cell culture using a wide variety of cells and technologies, previously director at the Center for Applied Biotechnology and Molecular Medicine at the University of Zurich CABMM.


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