Planned chip will provide rapid bioagent detection

The National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Food and Drug Administration plan to team up to develop a chip that will predict drug toxicities and the safety of vaccines.
The chip will bring together many different types of human cells onto a chip and have them communicate with one another. The agencies plan to spend up to $140 million over five years in an effort to develop the chip, Smart Planet reports.

Experts say that the chip will also aid in the fight against bioterror.

"The Department of Defense needs to rapidly develop and field safe an effective medical countermeasures against biological threats to US warfighters," Smart Planet reports.
The chip will be inlaid with human cells that represent human physiological systems from the brain to the heart and everything in between. The collaboration will make an effort to combine human cell types like liver and kidney cells to represent physiological systems and have them "talk to each other" on a chip. The goal is to get 10 different physiological systems represented in 3D on the chip, which would allow scientists to assess the effects of a candidate drug on gene expression, the neurological system, on proteins in the cardiovascular system and more.
“The idea is you’re looking for signatures that would tell you whether this is a safe compound to try in a human patient,” Collins said, according to Smart Planet.
According to the DARPA press release, the NIH will focus on developing micro-sized systems to mimic human physiology and pathology, DARPA will develop engineering platforms and the biology required and the FDA will advise the agencies on how to meet requirements for safety and effectiveness.

“Drug toxicity is one of the most common reasons why promising compounds fail,” Francis Collins, the NIH director, said in a press release, according to Smart Planet. “If things are going to fail, you want them to fail early."

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National Institutes of Health

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