Crown Bio: New in vitro technology could revolutionise drug discovery

CRO Crown: Advancing in vitro models could benefit preclinical world

Increasing the predictivity of in vitro systems could cut the costs of drug development and shift preclinical research away from animal models, according to Crown Bioscience.

Crown Bioscience is a contract research organisation (CRO) focused on the discovery of drugs for oncology and metabolic diseases using animal models. According to President, Jean-Pierre Wery, its proprietary Patient Derived Xenograft models are based on three dimensional human tumours and are more predictive than in vitro models for preclinical research.

In vitro models “are generally fast, cheap and able to screen many molecules,” he told “However, their predictive power can be limited. It is very challenging to reproduce the complexity of human biology in an in vitro system.”

“If one could develop in vitro models that would be as predictive as in vivo models, this would have a definite impact on the quality of the clinical candidates which are generated," he added.

“If a company can break through and create in vitro systems which would maintain the speed, throughput and cost advantages, and have equal or better predictive power than the in vivo models, the market opportunity and the impact of such technology would be huge, almost revolutionary.”

3D liver tissues

One firm attempting to do this is San Diego-based Organova, which is using its 3D NovoGen Bioprinting technology to build human liver tissues for preclinical studies.

The system comprises of primary hepatocytes, endothelial cells and hepatic stellates which are expanded, ‘bioprinted’ and conditioned, and have so far had positive results evaluating toxicity in certain pain relief compounds compared with current in vitro models.

According to Wery:“The Organovo liver tissues models are very exciting and represents a far more complex and evolved form of in vitro model than we have seen so far and the company should be commended for that achievement.”

However, despite such models capturing much of the complexity of a specific aspect of human biology into an in vitro system, Wery told us more work is needed. “To truly validate the performance and characteristics of such models would be a very costly and time consuming activity, but could be done over time.”

Despite this, Organovo - which is currently looking for CRO partnerships - can take comfort in the fact Crown Bio, for one, is interested in its technologies.

“We haven’t spoken yet directly to Organovo but probably should call for more information!”

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