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WSJ Article: Empiriko Launches With Seed Money, Synthetic Liver Tech for Drug Development

WSJ Article: Empiriko Launches With Seed Money, Synthetic Liver Tech for Drug Development

 

Empiriko Launches With Seed Money, Synthetic Liver Tech for Drug Development

Timothy Hay January 21, 2014

As it unveils its chemical compound that mimics the human liver as the organ metabolizes drugs--something that could potentially cut down the time and cost that come with clinical trials of new pharmaceuticals--Empiriko Inc. has also disclosed that its launch has been aided by an investment of nearly $1 million from an individual investor.

Pam Randhawa, founder and chief executive of the Newton, Mass.-based company, said Empiriko's proprietary synthetic liver will be available to drug developers as of this week, and that the company has interested customers on the line already.

She declined to name the outside investor who has helped to launch the company.

Pharma companies have been experimenting with various "organ-on-a-chip" technologies, or technologies that can replace human organ tissue in the lengthy and expensive process of testing the safety of new drugs.

Some drug testing involves watching the reaction of the human liver as new drug compounds are introduced.

One problem with this method, however, is that liver tissue is often an inaccurate predictor of how a patient's whole body will respond to a certain compound, Ms. Randhawa said. A drug that looks to be metabolizing just fine will often fail later on in the clinical process, she added.

Synthetic tissue holds the promise of showing researchers a more-accurate picture earlier on of whether certain compounds will cause side effects or remain effective at certain doses, she said.

Empiriko is working on other uses for its technology as well, including moving it into the area of more-personalized medical treatments, she said. Such a move would likely require regulatory approval, whereas releasing the product for use in pharma development does not.

Pharmaceutical companies have been experimenting for some time with organ-on-a-chip technologies, but none are yet using them on a large scale, Ms. Randhawa said.

Write to Timothy Hay at timothy.hay@wsj.com