New Consortium on the development of NASH Organ Function-on-a-chip model

15 Feb 2016

TNO (the Netherlands) recently signed an Agreement with InvitroCue Pte Ltd (“IVQ”; Singapore) and Takara Bio Europe AB (Sweden), under which they started a collaboration using different technologies to develop a model of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). This collaborative project is part of TNO’s Early Research Program ‘Organ on-a-chip’, for which it received funding from the Dutch Government.

NASH is a type of fatty liver disease, which mainly affects people with diabetes and obesity and is seen as one of the major societal and economic problems in healthcare. The number of NASH patients and committed healthcare costs increased four-fold in the last 15 years. Analysts now forecast that the market for NASH treatments could reach $35 to $40 Billion by Year 2025. Concomitant herewith, is an increasing demand for better predictive NASH preclinical model.

Ecosystem around organ on-a-chip

This two-year collaboration project aims to deliver a predictive translational in vitro model in which the effect of potential new medicines for NASH can be evaluated. The project perfectly fits within TNO’s strategy to establish an ecosystem that has full potential of developing relevant organ function-on-a-chip systems for various human disease applications. Organ function on-a-chip models are advanced in vitro models that closely resemble the structural tissue arrangements and functional complexity of living organs and tissues by using human cells (co-)cultured in 3D environment and/or using microfluidic chips. Currently most of organ on-a-chip applications are used for testing toxicity of compounds. TNO’s focus on efficacy and the introduction of human stem cells opens approaches toward precision medicine and population on-a-chip applications.


TNO provides unique knowledge and expertise regarding in vivo models of NASH, pathways and the etiology of disease. TNO’s system biology approach and the data integration from in vivo models as well as human data will contribute to the translation to human disease development and effect of NASH treatments.

IVQ has a notable track record in 3D-scaffolds through its participation with pharmaceutical and development projects, as well as DMPK in vitro analysis on liver drug compounds. IVQ will use its extensive know-how gained through its considerable experience in the 3D-scaffold models and its track record in preclinical pharmaceutical drug screening to contribute to the successful development and operation of Consortium. The in vitro preclinical models represent one of the primary focuses of IVQ’s business, and IVQ will continue to strive to develop predictive preclinical models and assays in this area.

Takara Bio Europe will contribute with their unique knowledge and expertise on 3D-culture systems and application/differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells into hepatocytes. Together we will have a worldwide partnership that employs three different companies sharing their technologies and expertise, which will deliver novel applicable models for testing potential new medicines in liver disease and liver toxicity issues. The project contributes to the aim of replacement, reduction and refinement of animal studies.

Invitation to join

The collaborative project is part of a larger TNO Early Research Program ‘Organ on-a-chip’, an open innovation network in which TNO works on liver-, gut- and lung-function-on-a-chip applications. Potential end users of these technologies such as Pharma and Biotech companies and also university medical centers, diagnostic companies, (read-out) technology providers and regulatory bodies are invited to join this open innovation network to tap their research plans into these programs.

If of interest please contact us.

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