A Microchip for Safer Drugs

Published Online: Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The FDA, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are teaming up to create a chip that would quickly predict a drug’s toxicity before it is tested in humans, the NIH announced in September.

The $140 million project will be carried out through independent programs conducted by the 3 agencies, which have already begun soliciting proposals from industry, government, academic, and research organizations. According to NIH, “The chip will be loaded with specific cell types that reflect human biology” and will “allow multiple different readouts that can indicate whether a particular compound is likely to be safe or toxic for humans.”

NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, said the advanced technology is needed to accelerate the development of safe and effective medicines and eliminate a bottleneck in drug approvals. “Drug toxicity is one of the most common reasons why promising compounds fail,” she explained. “We need to know which ones are safe and effective much earlier in the process.”

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