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Chemical and Biological Engineering

Biochip May End Animal Testing

Biochip technology could eliminate animal testing in the chemicals and cosmetics industries, and drastically curtail its use in the development of new pharmaceuticals, according to new findings from a team of researchers at Rensselaer, the University of California at Berkeley, and Solidus Biosciences Inc.

The researchers have developed two biochips, the DataChip and the MetaChip, that combine to reveal the potential toxicity of chemicals and drug candidates on various organs in the human body, and whether those compounds will become toxic when metabolized in the body, all in one experiment without the use of live animals.

Traditional toxicity testing involves the use of animals to predict whether a chemical or drug candidate is toxic. However, with the large number of compounds being generated in the pharmaceutical industry, and new legislation stipulating that chemicals undergo toxicity analysis, there is a rapidly emerging need for high-throughput toxicity testing.

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Biochip May End Animal Testing
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“We looked at the issues facing companies and realized that we needed to develop something that was low-cost, high-throughput, easily automatable, and did not involve animals,” says co-lead author Jonathan Dordick, the Howard P. Isermann ’42 Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and co-founder of Solidus Biosciences Inc., the company working to commercialize the chips. “We developed the MetaChip and DataChip to deal with the two most important issues that need to be assessed when examining the toxicity of a compound—the effect on different cells in our body and how toxicity is altered when the compound is metabolized in our bodies.”

When the biochips are used together the result is a promising and affordable alternative to animal-based toxicology screening and a direct route to developing safe, effective drugs, according to Dordick. Currently, detailed toxicity screening does not come into the drug discovery process until later in the development, when significant time and money have been invested in a compound.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.