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Microfluidic-based assays for automated in vivo testing of drug/chemical toxicity and efficacy using C. elegans

English title Microfluidic-based assays for automated in vivo testing of drug/chemical toxicity and efficacy using C. elegans
Applicant Cornaglia Matteo
Number 181854
Funding scheme Bridge - Proof of Concept
Research institution
Institution of higher education University of Lausanne - LA
Main discipline Pharmacology, Pharmacy
Start/End 01.07.2018 - 31.12.2019
Approved amount 195'000.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Pharmacology, Pharmacy
Other disciplines of Engineering Sciences

Keywords (5)

Chemical testing; Drug discovery; Microfluidics; Toxicology; C. elegans

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Les tests réalisés sur les animaux sont une étape indispensable dans le processus R&D de nombreux industriels. Néanmoins, plusieurs pays ont récemment émis des lois limitant, voir interdisant totalement, l’utilisation d’animaux pour les tests d’ingrédients à visées pharmaceutiques, cosmétiques et chimiques. Cette situation oblige ces industries à adopter rapidement des alternatives afin de poursuivre leurs activités R&D. Ce projet a donc eu comme objectif principal le développement de tests alternatifs en utilisant la toute première technologie de «vers-sur-puce» permettant de travailler sur un organisme entier -le ver microscopique C. elegans- sans contraintes légales, de façon complètement standardisée et automatisée.
Lay summary

Contenu, objectifs et résultats du travail de recherche

Le potentiel de C. elegans comme modèle alternatif est déjà en cours d’évaluation par des acteurs industriels majeurs, mais les contraintes techniques entourant son utilisation freinent considérablement son adoption à large échelle. En se basant sur notre technologie microfluidique unique, la première phase du projet a donc porté sur la mise en place de tests pour l’étude (i) de la toxicité sur le développement et la reproduction et (ii) l’efficacité de molécules pour des maladies complexes, comme les pathologies métaboliques et neurodégénératives. Ensuite, nous avons validé les performances de ces nouveaux tests en les utilisant pour le criblage de petites librairies des composés chimiques de référence. Une jeune société, Nagi Bioscience SA, a été créé afin de continuer le développement et de commercialiser cette technologie innovante.

Contexte scientifique et social du projet de recherche

Le projet s’inscrit dans une démarche scientifique de validation de nouveaux tests biologiques alternatifs à l’expérimentation animale. Le standard actuel impose que les tests toxicologiques et d’efficacités soient réalisés via des expériences utilisant des modèles animaux. Grâce à notre approche, les industries opérant dans les secteurs pharmaceutiques, cosmétiques et chimiques auront la possibilité d’améliorer le processus de sélection des composés, tout en respectant les contraintes éthiques imposées par la réglementation.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 10.02.2020

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
EPFL/Prof. Auwerx group, Dr. Laurent Mouchiroud Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
EPFL/Prof. Forró group Switzerland (Europe)
- Publication
EPFL/Prof. Gijs group, Dr. Fabien Tâche Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Swiss 3Rs Day Poster Automated high-content phenotyping of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans: application to the toxicity assessment of perovskites materials 02.09.2019 Bern, Switzerland Cornaglia Matteo;


Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Tech Tour Contest Final 2019 Talk 09.12.2019 Essen, Germany Cornaglia Matteo;
Frontiers Health 2019 Talk 13.11.2019 Berlin, Germany Cornaglia Matteo;
Alpine High-tech Venture Forum 2019 Talk 01.10.2019 Lausanne, Switzerland Cornaglia Matteo;
Innovaud Sparring Session Talk 18.07.2019 Lausanne, Switzerland Cornaglia Matteo;
Investiere startup pitching event Talk 21.05.2019 Zurich, Switzerland Cornaglia Matteo;
FIT/IMD startup event Talk 07.02.2019 Lausanne, Switzerland Cornaglia Matteo;
Swiss Startup Days Talk 25.09.2018 Bern, Switzerland Cornaglia Matteo;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) "How worms on a chip replace laboratory mice" Investiere blog International 2019
Media relations: print media, online media "Un ver à la place des animaux de laboratoire" Swissinfo German-speaking Switzerland Western Switzerland Italian-speaking Switzerland 2019
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Innovator of the Month Interview with Nagi Bioscience Innovation Forum blog International 2019
Media relations: print media, online media Press Release about Nagi Bioscience and Venture Kick 3 funding Startupticker International 2019
Media relations: print media, online media Press release about Nagi Bioscience and PMEP award Startupticker International 2018
Media relations: radio, television Video interview in the framework of the competition “Inventer Demain 2018” Bilan-RTS-France 3 Western Switzerland 2018

Awards

Title Year
IMD startup competition 2019
Winner of the Tech Tour Contest Final (HealthTech category, 3rd place) 2019
Winner of the VentureLab-Zühlke Industrialization Check Up 2019
Winner of Venture Kick stage 3 funding 2019
Finalist of Mass Challenge Switzerland 2018
Finalist of the startup competition “Inventer Demain” 2018
Winner of Philip Morris Equity Partner (PMEP) startup competition 2018

Use-inspired outputs


Start-ups

Name Year

Abstract

We developed a new class of microfluidic-based assays for fully automated testing of drug/chemical toxicity and efficacy using the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans. We expect these novel assays to represent a new valid alternative to vertebrate animal testing for a more efficient and ethical drug discovery and for safety assessment of cosmetic and chemical products. Building on the technological achievements obtained via 4 years of scientific research at EPFL, this Bridge proof-of-concept (PoC) project -and the start-up company “Nagi Bioscience”, created in 2019 during the project itself- aims to completely replace the traditional manual tests of today’s C. elegans research by standardized assays performed within disposable microfluidic chips, integrated in a fully automated laboratory device. In particular, we developed and validated new microfluidic-based test methods for: (i) Developmental and Reproduction Toxicity substance testing on C. elegans; (ii) drug efficacy screens for drug discovery using transgenic C. elegans strains. Moreover we (iii) applied our innovative assays within representative drug/chemical screening contexts using small libraries or benchmark compounds and demonstrated the superior performance of our automated microfluidic bioassays with respect to traditional manual methods. We believe that this project will pave the way for a widespread use of C. elegans as alternative biological model to vertebrates (e.g. mice) in drug discovery and chemical toxicity screening. As such, the startup Nagi Bioscience will now build on the main project findings to set a new standard for testing safety and efficacy of drugs, cosmetics and chemicals.
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