BARDA and NCATS announce three new EZ-BAA partners for the ImmuneChip+ program to advance tissue-chip technology for immunity, vaccine, and drug development studies

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BARDA's Division of Research, Innovation, and Ventures (DRIVe) and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), part of the National Institutes of Health, are partnering with three non-government organizations to advance the development of microphysiological systems (MPS), also known as tissue chips technology, as part of the BARDA-NCATS ImmuneChip+ Program.

MPS can replicate components of vital human tissues and immune system functions and monitor their interactions. MPS  are 3D biophysical platforms comprised of cellular constructs that mimic the structure and function of human tissues and organs, including the lungs, liver, and heart.

Experts at BARDA and NCATS expect that the use of advanced MPS will increase the understanding of health and disease, and enable more efficient assessment of promising potential biomedical interventions. Recent rapid advances in this field now make the prospect of MPS commercialization and broad usability more realistic. Key challenges remain, however, including difficulty of manufacturing, integrating, and using medically relevant sensors, and the combination of multiple tissues anchored by the immune system to model the human body’s response.

Accurately modeling human systems in vitro to test treatment effectiveness is a key step to accelerating the pace of medical countermeasure discovery and development. However, predicting and testing the effects of therapeutics during early non-clinical studies is difficult, costly, time-consuming, and can fail to anticipate side effects in people. To safely and quickly evaluate a drug’s effectiveness and toxicity, researchers could utilize MPS in the early stages of studies. MPS may serve as a predictive tool in the drug development process, aid the screening of signaling molecules and drug targets, and help develop precision medicine-based therapies.

Three new partners now working with BARDA and NCATS to advance this technology are the Vunjak-Novakovic Laboratory at Columbia University, the Biomedical Engineering Division at Draper in Cambridge, MA, and the Ingber Lab at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute.

The Vunjak-Novakovic Laboratory at Columbia University is developing and validating a modular tissue chip system enabling studies of human immune responses to respiratory viral infection. The platform will enable modelling of the effects of coronavirus infection on different tissues over many weeks, including immune responses to the virus and the resulting tissue damage. The goal of this project is to advance the capabilities of tissue chip technology as well as to enable personalized medical studies of patient-specific immune behaviors.

The Biomedical Engineering Division at Draper is enhancing a tissue-chip platform for advanced studies of viral infection. The proposed technology employs PREDICT96 to model a human airway tissue and enable long-term tissue culture and monitoring as well as SARS-CoV-2 infection studies. PREDICT96 is the first high-throughput, 3D tissue culture platform, and it was developed by Draper. The platform is designed to integrate with pharmaceutical infrastructure  making 3D human tissue models a more readily available tool for drug screening.

The Ingber Lab at the Wyss Institute is developing and validating a Human Lymphoid Follicle Chip (LF Chip) with in-line biomarker sensing. This type of platform could potentially aid in vaccine development by expediting preclinical evaluation of vaccines and adjuvants. The Wyss Institute had previously demonstrated the ability to mimic the effects of vaccination on the human immune system in vitro using LF Chips.

If successful, this technological development could provide major advances over current methods. The microfluidic LF chips will utilize devices and automated instruments that are already commercially available.

These awards are one component of BARDA’s DRIVe Medical Countermeasures portfolio and the ImmuneChip+ program. Please visit BARDA’s DRIVe Portfolio and ImmuneChip+ program to learn more.

About the Vunjak-Novakovic Laboratory at Columbia University:

The following information is provided by the partner and does not indicate endorsement by the federal government of the company or its products.

Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic's diverse team of engineers, clinicians, and scientists are developing innovative tissue engineering technologies for improving human health. The Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering is interested in whole organ engineering for regenerative medicine, tissue models for biological research, and “organs-on-a-chip” platforms for disease modeling and drug development.

Twitter: @GVNlab


About Draper:  

The following information is provided by Draper and does not indicate endorsement by the federal government of the company or its products. 

As a nonprofit engineering innovation company, Draper focuses on the design, development and deployment of advanced technological solutions for the world’s most challenging and important problems. We provide engineering solutions directly to government, industry and academia; work on teams as prime contractor or subcontractor; and participate as a collaborator in consortia. We provide unbiased assessments of technology or systems designed or recommended by other organizations—custom designed, as well as commercial-off-the-shelf.


About the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University:  

The following information is provided by the Wyss Institute and does not indicate endorsement by the federal government of the company or its products. 

 The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University ( uses nature’s design principles to develop bioinspired materials and devices that will transform medicine and create a more sustainable world. Wyss researchers are developing innovative new engineering solutions for healthcare, energy, architecture, robotics, and manufacturing that are translated into commercial products and therapies through collaborations with clinical investigators, corporate alliances, and formation of new startups. The Wyss Institute creates transformative technological breakthroughs by engaging in high risk research, and crosses disciplinary and institutional barriers, working as an alliance that includes Harvard’s Schools of Medicine, Engineering, Arts & Sciences, and Design, and in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana–Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston University, Tufts University, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, University of Zürich, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Last Updated: September 23, 2021