€150,000 ERC grant to fund Prof Róisín Owens’ drug-development research

Prof Róisín Owens has long been at the forefront of bioengineering research, creating technologies to develop medicines with new speed and accuracy. This could mean personalised drugs, precisely targeted at an individual’s own body, new purposes for existing drugs, or quicker assays for potential drug candidates.

Now, Prof Owens and her group have been awarded a €150,000 European Research Council grant for a collaborative project with CN Bio, a Cambridge-based company working on new-generation drug discovery technologies, known as organs-on-a-chip (OOC).

Owens’ group recently patented their 3D tissue model technology that combines OOC concepts with electrochemical devices. Using this technology, they can build a 3D model of the human gut – composed of the different cells that make up the human intestine – that is embedded with electrodes, allowing them to continuously monitor what’s happening in the tissue.

The grant will enable Owens and her team to integrate their 3D human gut tissue model with CN Bio’s PhysioMimix MPS; a next-generation lab benchtop-ready system that reliably bridges the gap between traditional cell culture assays and human studies, to optimise the accuracy and efficiency of bringing new medicines to market. The resulting technology can be used to run fast, automated screening of how drugs or potential drug candidates interact with human gut tissue.

The overall aim of the project is to enable faster and more accurate screening of potential treatments, using human tissue in an environment that closely mimics that found in the human body. The group hope their technology will eventually reduce the need for animal testing in drug development.

Owens’ previous ERC Proof of Concept grant in 2014 led her to co-found spin-out company Panaxium, based in France, which now has 18 full-time employees.

Read more about Prof Owens’ research on the Dept of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology website

Adapted from an original news story by Ellie Hall.