‘Patient specific iPSCs are very suitable to overcome the bottleneck of traditional screening models’


MinacNed, hDMT and HollandBIO organize on May 15 the network meeting ‘Accelerating drug development using organ- and lab-on-a-chip technology’. One of the speakers at this event will be Arie Reijerkerk, Lead Scientist at Ncardia. He will talk about iPSCs, bioprocessing and high throughput screening technologies.

Ncardia is a stem cell drug discovery and development company operating worldwide. The company has facilities and offices in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the USA. Ncardia has about 65 employees. It has developed a proprietary technology to manufacture cardiovascular and neural cell-based assay solutions derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells. According to Ncardia, it’s focus is to be the supportive and trusted partner for scientists operating in the hiPSC (Human induced Pluripotent Stem Cells) drug discovery and development space, including cardiovascular and neural safety and efficacy studies.

Arie Reijerkerk
Arie Reijerkerk

Both the safety and efficacy space are strongly developing areas. Cardiac safety assessment of compounds for example, currently rely on surrogate biomarkers of arrhythmia and clinical QT prolongation. By using hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes the safety of compounds can be evaluated on a physiologically more relevant model.

Advances in throughput and predictivity will help to avoid costly late stage failures while allowing more drugs to proceed in development. Currently, the implementation of hiPSC-derived cardiomyocytes in regulated safety screening is validated by the CiPA initiative, a joint effort of regulatory bodies and pharma industry in which Ncardia is participating.

Accelerate and improve drug candidate selection

At the network meeting on May 15th, Reijerkerk will talk about how Ncardia leverages iPSCs in combination with state-of-the-art bioprocessing and high throughput screening technologies to produce and commercialize predictive human cellular (disease) assay systems for safety and efficacy testing. Reijerkerk: “Such high throughput screening based on a human predictive model, from virtually any patient, will accelerate and improve drug candidate selection, reduce costs and ultimately increase drug discovery & development efficiency.”

Currently, drug discovery and development is incredibly expensive and not very efficient. The lack of predictive models to test for drug efficacy is nowadays limiting success in the clinic. Cultured cells and animal models, the systems most used for efficacy screening, have severe limitations as they do not reflect a disease model accurately.

‘Disease-in-a-dish’ systems

Patient specific iPSCs are very suitable to overcome this bottleneck and can be used to create ‘disease-in-a-dish’ systems. Examples are using co-cultures or ‘organ-on-a-chip’ models containing various cells types from a patient. This makes it possible to investigate more complex physiological processes and predict drug effects for specific patients or patient groups.

Reijerkerk: “The market therefore needs reproducible, predictive and translatable human cellular models to facilitate decisions about drug candidates. Stem cell technology allows us scientists the creation of human models that can support drug discovery and development. And by using predictive human biology, it’s possible to improve decision making in the pre-clinical phase.”