× Medicines Discovery Catapult

Complex cell models are biological models and cell culture systems that more closely mimic human tissue architecture, microenvironment, and signalling. Our current capabilities include the use of miniaturised 3D organoid and organ on a chip systems covering a number of organs relevant to disease mechanisms and drug safety, representing key aspects of patient organ-level functions and disease.

Drug discovery is driven by testing candidate drugs in pre-clinical cell and animal models that enable target hypotheses to be validated and predicted assessments of efficacy and safety to be made.

However, these models lack biological relevance resulting in poor predictability, advancement of candidate drugs with inadequate efficacy and high toxicity, leading to high failure rates at later stages in the process.

We are looking for collaborations with:

  • Academics or companies seeking to further develop their cell models, validate to industry standards or to share more widely with the drug discovery community. Currently we are especially interested in models of neuroinflammation and fibrosis
  • Academics or companies wanting to test their innovations in 3D models or micro-physiological systems with relevant cells and endpoints
  • Academics or companies with novel tools or reagents that could be used to develop or validate new models
Photo of organ on a chip
Organ on a chip technology (Tissuse)

Our aims through collaborative R&D

  • Achieve greater relevance to human disease in drug discovery programmes by replacing animal cells and cell lines with human cells
  • Enable partners to more readily access 3D human cell models that represent the architecture and signalling seen in major human organs in health and disease
  • Connect organ models together in organ on a chip technologies
  • Address current unmet needs in complex cell models (e.g. difficult to culture cells vascular perfusion, mature/aged phenotypes)
  • Address current unmet needs in understanding of complex diseases, for example in fibrosis models and neuroinflammation models

Our work in complex cell models will allow SMEs to:

  • Access expert support to guide them in the most appropriate models and endpoints to test their hypotheses
  • Test candidate drugs in industry validated models of human relevance, increasing the chance of success in the clinic
  • Use these models alongside our other technologies to generate data that will enable companies to select, optimise or withdraw drugs at earlier stages of drug discovery
  • De-risk drug programmes through preclinical and early clinical stages to create value for investors
  • Reduce the reliance on expensive animal disease models
  • Test novel technologies for building 3D structures with a variety of human cell types

Our technologies

We develop and improve our complex cell models with support from the interrogative technologies available within our laboratories, including: mass spectrometry, imaging, genomics profiling, sensitive detection (e.g. ddPCR) and innovative drug delivery approaches.

Photo of automated cell assay system (High Res arm)
Automated cell assay system (High Res arm)
  • Organ on a chip technology (Tissuse)
  • Primary and standard cell culture suites
  • IncuCyte S3 Live Cell Analysis
  • Echo 555 acoustic dispenser
  • VIAFLO contact liquid handling
  • Plate based multi-drop dispensers
  • Automated cell assay system (High Res arm)
  • ClarioSTAR and HiDex microplate readers
  • Bluecat, Biotek and Berthold plate washers
  • Nanion Cardioexcyte CE96 platform