Nikolas Gaio, founder and CTO of Bi/ond, and Rosa Monge, founder and CEO of BEOnChip chats about the #OoCovid initiative and the importance of organ-on-chip.
Why did Bi/ond launch the #OoCovid initiative?
Niko: When the Covid19 outbreak started to hit Europe, everyone in BI/OND was sure that Organ-on-Chip technology could have a real impact in the fight against the Covid19. We noticed the Organ-on-Chip community was not reacting fast enough. So we decided to do something about it, and we came up with the #OoCovid initiative. This challenge aimed at three main goals.
First and foremost, we wanted to help Covid-19 patients by promoting donations to researchers working on studying the disease and its effects on the human body.
Unity is Strength:
Second, the initiative aimed at convincing all the OOC startups and companies to join forces and work together for a solution.
Need for change:
Third, we wanted to raise awareness regarding the need for new ways of developing drugs and vaccines, to prove that OoC is a valuable alternative.
Why did you join the #OoCovid initiative?
Rosa: Covid19 has caught us completely off-guard and has caused a global crisis that will take years to overcome. This pandemic has shown us all how fragile our economy is and how unprepared our health systems were for a worldwide pandemic. Now is the time for innovation in vitro-research, to speed up the development of new drugs, treatments and vaccines for new diseases such as Covid19. We believe that the Organ on Chip technology will have a key role in future biomedical research, and the #OoCovid initiative aims to put the OoC technology in the spotlight. #OoCovid will help researchers and private companies to understand better the possibilities of the next generation of in vitro research platforms and the importance of adopting this technology early.
How could OoC research contribute to find a solution for viruses such as the coronavirus?
Niko: We believe that OoCs will show their full potential in understanding the effect of Covid-19 on the human body. The combination of OoC and 3D tissues, such as organoids, should not only enable us to understand the mechanisms behind the infection and the damages caused by the virus on lungs, kidneys, heart but also how it interacts with the whole immune system.
Rosa: OoC technology is a powerful tool that will contribute significantly to finding solutions to the medical crisis in the future. OoC can enable us to create models of healthy organs such as a lung-on-chip, that will help us understand better the infection process or test the toxicity of a new treatment in a fast and reliable way. In addition, Organ on a chip technology allows us to model diseased organs and allows us to screen a drug efficacy using cells from a specific population group, that is known to be more susceptible to contracting an illness.
The possibilities are uncanny, and the OoC field is just currently blooming.
Which are the current limits of OoC research and could they be overcome by collaborating more within fields?
Rosa: The field is multidisciplinary. This technology combines the latest advances in tissue engineering with novel developments in microfabrication. Therefore, it is compulsory to create new communication channels between engineers and biomedical researchers to design functional, cheap and easy to use platforms.
What is the role of OOC companies in bridging the gap between research and industry?
Rosa: OoC companies have an enormous task to gather the most relevant advances in OoC technology and take them from the lab to the industry by creating reliable platforms. These platforms will save time and money for researchers and companies that can directly focus on the goal at hand: testing the efficacy or toxicity of a drug, without worrying and spending time in cell culture and organ model validation.
This will pave the way for a faster and more responsive health-care system worldwide, capable of overcoming unexpected crises such as this one.
Niko: OoC has shown to be an extremely versatile technology with a wide range of applications. OoC companies, like BI/OND and BeOnChip, have the duty to identify the applications that will have a real impact on tomorrow’s health-care. At the same time, we have to take into consideration that, to make these technologies widely available, we need to develop technologies that address the day to day issues faced by biologists working in pharmaceutical companies.
We believe that OoC will contribute to advancing the global health-care system, by proving safe, personalized and reliable solutions.