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Organ Chip Spin-Off Gains $28M in Venture Funds

Small airway chip

Small airway chip (Wyss Institute, Harvard University)

28 March 2016. A two year-old company developing chip devices that simulate human organs is adding $28 million in venture capital to its treasury. This is the second venture funding round for Emulate Inc., in Boston, a spin-off enterprise from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.

Emulate Inc. creates plastic chip devices about the size of USB computer memory sticks with miniaturized collections of human cells and enzymes that mimic the functions of human organs. The technology aims to provide a safer and more reliable medium to test drugs than cell cultures and lab animals. These devices, says the company, recreate micro environments that allow the observation and tracking of drugs with mechanical forces in human organs, interactions with tissue and chemicals in the body, and effects on blood cells including immune system cells.

So far Emulate Inc. designed working models of the lung, intestine, liver, and kidney, is working on skin, eye, and brain systems. The chips can work independently, but can also be linked together to assess interactions on multiple organs or even the entire body at once. The company plans to develop a human emulation system, an integrated, automated, and self-contained set of devices that includes instrumentation and supporting software.

As reported by Science & Enterprise in December 2015, Emulate Inc. collaborated with the Wyss Institute and the pharmaceutical companies Merck and Pfizer, to develop a human airway chip to study asthma and COPD. Science & Enterprise also reported on the company’s founding in July 2014 and its initial venture funding round that raised $12 million.

The latest financing round was provided by new investors OS Fund; Atel Ventures; ALS Finding a Cure, and the Leandro P. Rizzuto Foundation, as well as current investors Hansjörg Wyss, NanoDimension, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Proceeds from the funding round are expected to expand the repertoire of organ chips to kidney, heart, and brain models. The funds will also support expanding the types of disease states simulated on the chips to include cancer, as well as neurodegenerative, intestinal, and infectious diseases.

In addition, the new funds will support the human emulation system launch as a product for labs to run on their own. Emulate Inc. seeks to design the system as a stand-alone product to run without specialized expertise.

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