The KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm has set up a lab in the BioVentureHub at AstraZeneca’s strategic research centre in Gothenburg. The aim is to test and scale-up an innovative, nanoscale, microfluidic technology platform for large-scale drug compound screening in a pharmaceutical company setting.
Large-scale compound screening enables pharmaceutical companies to make robust pipeline decisions and accelerate promising candidates to the clinic. At present, this screening is done almost exclusively in a 2D cell culture format. 3D microtissue models based on primary cells can more accurately reflect in vivo drug response but have not been deployable at the scale needed for high throughput screening and iterative improvements of compound properties.
The novel technology, developed jointly by KTH’s Division of Nanobiotechnology and Karolinska Institutet (KI), is based on an innovative microfluidic platform. The approach enables water in fluorinated oil droplets to be used as nanolitre containers, in which cell samples can be incubated and aggregate to form millions of disease-relevant mini-spheroids that can be used in large-scale compound screening. The capacity to produce millions of 3D mini-spheroids represents a paradigm shift from earlier surface-based methods.
The starting point for the collaboration between AstraZeneca and KTH-KI was the SciLifeLab-coordinated and Vinnova-backed Nanoscale Drug Testing Consortium, which also brought Lucero Bio into the BioVentureHub.
Thomas Lundbäck, Director of Mechanistic and Structural Biology, Discovery Sciences, R&D, AstraZeneca, explains, “During the Nanoscale Drug Testing Consortium project, we have seen that the KTH-KI solution for producing hundreds of thousands of mini-spheroids could potentially supercharge our strategic drive to enable more, and higher quality, disease-relevant cell models earlier in the drug discovery process. There is considerable interest in the mini-spheroid approach from colleagues across AstraZeneca. I’m so excited that Håkan and his team have joined the BioVentureHub. I’m really looking forward to working closely with them to generate the data that will guide future directions and applications of this exciting new technology platform.”
Håkan Jönsson, Associate Professor, Division of Nanobiotechnology at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, adds, “We’re very pleased to have this opportunity to be a part of the BioVentureHub and to work closely with AstraZeneca scientists to develop our technology to scale up the efficient production and handling of 3D microtissues for state-of-the-art throughput screening workflows.”
Magnus Björsne, CEO for AstraZeneca’s BioVentureHub, says, “Using the BioVentureHub in this way as a vehicle to catalyse collaborative innovation and facilitate closer proximity generates value for AstraZeneca and everyone involved. We’re super happy to welcome Håkan and his team to the BioVentureHub. Adding a second academic group of this calibre (and from Stockholm!) to the BioVentureHub also adds to the vibrancy and diversity of the life science ecosystem in West Sweden.”
The BioVentureHub is part of AstraZeneca’s A.Catalyst Network − an interconnected global network of more than 20 AstraZeneca health innovation hubs.