New Drug Toxicity Chip

The NIH, FDA, and DARPA are teaming up to develop a chip to test drug toxicities as one of the first projects of the NIH's new translational research center.

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef Akst is managing editor of The Scientist, where she started as an intern in 2009 after receiving a master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses.

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Sep 19, 2011

FLICKR, UMBERTO SALVAGNIN

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) plans to spend up to $140 million over 5 years to develop, in partnership with the US Food and Drug Administration and DARPA, a chip that can predict drug toxicities. The chip, which is to be one of the first projects undertaken by the NIH's proposed National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), will be “an in vitro platform of human tissue constructs that accurately predicts the safety, efficacy, and pharmacokinetics of drug/vaccine candidates prior to their first use in man,” according to the DARPA call for research proposals. It should integrate the responses of different human cell types, grown in three dimensions, to represent a more complete physiological system than existing toxicity testing techniques, NIH Director Francis Collins told ScienceInsider. The project "is really ambitious."

But questions linger about the new center—whether it's needed, and where the...

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