BioAlps | 20 years of innovation | Neurix
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Minibrain technology enabling efficient drug testing and development
We are pleased to share with you our new testimonial series as part of our ecosystem’s 20th anniversary celebrations. The series aims to provide a platform for regional Life Sciences key players to present themselves, share their perspectives on the development of Western Switzerland’s Life Sciences ecosystem and their outlook on upcoming challenges and opportunities. The following article is presented to you by Neurix.
Presentation of Neurix’s activities
Neurix produces brain-in-a-dish derived from human pluripotent stem cells. We call these the Minibrain®, which represent more accurately the physiology of the human brain. Neurix provides drug testing services to pharmaceutical companies to help select the most efficient drug or less neurotoxic compound to be further developed and progressed into the clinics.
Major Life Sciences trends and developments in Western Switzerland and Neurix’s contribution
New treatments created by pharmaceutical companies are first tested in vitro on cells, then in vivo on mice, and finally tested on humans during clinical trials. Yet, about 90% of new drugs fail in clinical trials. As such patients do not get to benefit from novel therapies while a huge waste of time and money is borne by pharmaceutical companies.
There is growing consensus that conventional tests are poorly relevant to human brain physiology. Neurix aims at solving this problem by developing next generation in vitro assays with improved resemblance to the human brain: 3-dimensional cerebral tissues originating from human pluripotent stem cells, the Minibrain®.
Moreover, our approach is a potent alternative to animal experimentation and we believe our Minibrain® could help to significantly reduce the number of animals used in scientific research.
Significant foreseeable trends and challenges in Life Sciences
Technologies are evolving fast and becoming more complex. It is a constant challenge to remain trained and updated, or be able to find suited human resources. As an example we do manufacture brain-in-a-dish while other companies aim already at developing “full-body on a chip” ! We also need to constantly innovate or build collaborations to stay in the race.
In contrast it becomes harder to obtain authorisation to work on animal models for scientific research which is an opportunity for our tools. We will also participate to decrease costs for drug development which is an important asset.
Major events which have contributed to the development of Life Sciences
According to us, three major elements have participated to the success of Life Sciences in Western Switzerland. First, the presence of top universities is key to educate well-trained scientists and bring creative technologies later incorporated in companies. Also, early stage funding both via the cantons, federation and Europe combined with an active network to foster new collaborations and develop worldwide competitive services and products.
How will Neurix evolve to meet the new demand for personal health in a growing, interdisciplinary market?
We have to stay connected with the market needs to adapt in a relevant manner. An active network is a precious asset to drive such a complex task.
In parallel the diversification of the services / product is important: in addition to drug testing, we also develop personalised medicine services. We cultivate patient-derived brain cancer in our Minibrain® to predict the most suited treatment. This avoids unnecessary setbacks induced by incompatible therapies.
Active networks and collaborations are the best ways to stay informed, thus anticipate and manage future challenges.