iiCON and CN Bio announce COVID-19 research collaboration

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iiCON has entered into a research collaboration with CN Bio, a leading Organ-on-a-Chip Company (OOC) that designs and manufactures single- and multi-organ microphysiological systems (MPS), to validate the next generation of COVID-19 research tools.

iiCON’s £174 million programme brings together industry, academia, and clinicians to accelerate the discovery, development and deployment of new treatments and products – saving and improving millions of lives through collaborative innovation. Led by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Its partner members are Unilever, Evotec, Liverpool University Hospitals Foundation Trust, University of Liverpool, and Infex Therapeutics.

Under the terms of the agreement, iiCON lead partner, LSTM, a world-leading institute for infectious disease research, will independently validate CN Bio’s novel lung and lung-liver models, designed to advance novel SARS-CoV-2 drug discovery and development.

CN Bio’s SARS-CoV-2 3D lung cell culture models were developed as part of an Innovate UK project to improve the efficiency and accuracy of COVID-19 drug development. The Company was granted funding to build multi-cellular upper and lower human airway and multi-organ models that more accurately reflect the human environment and deliver more translatable data, in comparison to current in vivo studies.

By combining in vitro lung and liver cultures, the multi-organ model uniquely enables inter-organ crosstalk effects to be studied; providing deeper human-specific mechanistic insights of the COVID-19 disease state, which is known to affect numerous tissue/organs of the body2. The single and multi-organ models have been developed for use with the Company’s PhysioMimix™ plug-and-play, lab-benchtop MPS, enabling straightforward incorporation into current pre-clinical research projects investigating the next generation of COVID-19 therapeutics to treat and prevent the infection.

Expanding on the project with Innovate UK, within nine months, CN Bio’s perfused lung models are to be transferred to LSTM for validation, to demonstrate the ability of the PhysioMimix systems to support the full viral life cycle of SARS-CoV-2 and facilitate testing with anti-viral compounds. LSTM will validate the systems’ use in high containment laboratories (CL3) for studies with infectious viral materials and validate the system’s potential to identify PK/PD indices and PD Targets for the development of safe and efficacious dosing regimens of new antiviral therapeutics.

Following this initial evaluation, it is intended that iiCON will have access to the PhysioMimix technology and its associated 3D tissue models for a variety of translational infectious disease projects. A successful outcome from the collaboration will support researchers globally by providing advanced insights to SARS-CoV-2 infections in humans and enable CN Bio to expand its portfolio of OOC models to address a broader and more diverse range of therapeutic areas.

Dr Tomasz Kostrzewski, Director of Biology of CN Bio, said: “iiCON’s commitment to collaborative innovation has enabled our pioneering partnership with consortium lead, LSTM. This collaboration will provide access to the institute’s world-leading expertise in infectious disease research, in addition to the consortium’s outstanding industry links.

“As a result of this collaboration, it is our joint intention that the data generated will be published, providing us with proof that supports the adoption of PhysioMimix microphysiological systems into industry, where they can be used as translational tools to accelerate understanding of SARS-CoV-2 infection and consequently, accelerate the development of new therapeutic options.”

Professor Giancarlo Biagini, iiCON Platform Lead and Head of the Department of Tropical Disease Biology at LSTM as well as UKRI Innovation Scholar, said: “Facilitating the industry academic interface to drive forward transformative technologies and fast-track innovative health solutions to our most pressing global infectious disease challenges is at the heart of iiCON’s purpose.

“As part of the consortium, LSTM is delighted to be entering into this key agreement with CN Bio. By leveraging emerging organ-on-a-chip technology, we aim to develop pre-clinical platforms that accelerate translational research of new therapeutics to manage and treat major human infections, including emerging and high consequence infectious diseases such SARS-COV-2.”