Currently worth a few million dollars, the emerging organs-on-chips market has the potential to become a multi-billion dollar market.
Organs-on-chips: the promise of solving one of the pharmaceutical industry’s major hurdles
Bringing a new drug to market is one of the longest and most costly paths any industry has to walk. Companies start with several thousands of compounds that may have positive effects against a disease or a human condition. More than twelve years and several billion dollars later, if they’re lucky they managed to get one of these compounds onto the market. All the others failed at one stage or another during the drug development process – and the later the failure, the more expensive it is. Current methods – cell culture in petri dishes and animal testing among others – are not predictive enough. Around 90% of drugs that have been validated on these models then fail during clinical trials because of toxicity or lack of efficacy. The pharmaceutical industry therefore needs more predictive tools to make drug candidates fail earlier and cheaper. Other industries where toxicity testing is a major concern, such as cosmetics, agro-food and consumer goods, also need such solutions, in particular because animal testing is now banned for these industries in certain geographical areas. Several options have been envisioned, the most promising of which is certainly organs-on-chips. These combinations of micro-technology and biology reconstitute the physiological and mechanical functions of human organs under the form of micro-engineered devices lined with living cells. Precisely controlled fluid flows combined with mechanical cues and tissue-tissue interfaces enable dynamic models, much more relevant than conventional static cell cultures. As a sign of confidence in this technology, significant funding has been allocated to organs-on-chips developers: DARPA and the NIH respectively awarded $140M and $76M over 5-year periods to support developments. In parallel, technology developers have raised more than $80M since 2012 with investors. In Yole Développement’s report, all the key elements to understand the organs-on-chips landscape are detailed.
Organs-on-chips: a small market, gigantic promise and a lot of hype
Pioneers started the development of organs-on-chips around 2000 but really accelerated only after 2010 thanks to funding and media coverage. Despite promises that make industrial players dream, we can barely speak about a real market today. Yole’s analysts estimate the combined sales of organs-on-chips devices and service offerings at no more than $7.5M in 2016. Indeed, very few players are already in the production and commercialization phase. Most companies are spin-offs from universities’ labs and are currently upgrading their organs-on-chips models through an iterative process with industrial players. Pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies are eager to test different organs-on-chips solutions to assess which technology is best suited for which type of experiment, but they are conservative and will need time to widely adopt the technology. Depending on the speed of adoption, and on the ability of organs-on-chips companies to overcome technical challenges and to upscale production, Yole’s analysts detail different scenarios in which the market could grow at a compound annual growth rate from 2017-2022 of 38-57% to reach $60M-$117M in 2022. And this is only a first step. There is no doubt such technologies have the potential to become a multi-billion dollar market in the mid- to long-term future, given the billions of dollars they could help the industry to save every year. Ethical concerns are also at the heart of this new market: more than one hundred million animals are used in laboratory experiments worldwide every year, and could be replaced by pieces of microfluidic technology. But will this happen? Increased media coverage and significant enthusiasm from the technology developers should not hide the significant barriers to technology adoption. Meanwhile, industry and governmental agencies have placed huge expectations on a few developers of organs-on-chips technologies which were awarded substantial funding. In this report, you will find an analysis of what the consequences could be for the whole industry if these players were to fail. However, it is likely that the investments will continue, with large pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies starting to use organs-on-chips. L’Oréal, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Roche and Sanofi, among others, already have partnerships with organs-on-chips developers and believe the technology will change the efficacy and toxicology testing landscapes for both existing and being developed products.
Multiple technical challenges are still to be overcome
Despite the great promises made by organs-on-chips technology, we are still far from seeing wide adoption by the industry and several major technical challenges still need to be addressed. First, the ability to successfully connect together several organs to accurately mimic whole body response to a drug has to be demonstrated. Several companies are working on multi-organ models but a whole, functioning “body on a chip” is still far from being a reality. In order to address various needs, organs-on-chips players are diversifying their offerings across different types of organs, types of devices and flow management. In the report, Yole’s analysts propose a technical segmentation based on key criteria in function of the drug development stages to be addressed, along with insights about the main technical limitations which today prevent the wide adoption of organs-on-chips technologies. One of the main issues will be upscaling production from a few devices per week or per month to bigger volumes in line with the reality of market demand. Indeed, few companies have already thought about upscaling production and the associated material shifts and/or required redesign phases. Most organs-on-chips rely on microfluidic technologies, meaning that microfluidic foundries will increasingly receive requests from startups looking for manufacturing partners. Some of these foundries have even started to propose tailored approaches for organs-on-chips, underlining they identified a great potential in this area. Last but not least, standardization and compatibility with existing equipment will be a major criteria for wide adoption of organs-on-chips – although technology developers show greater awareness on this point.
Objectives of the Report
This report’s objectives are to:
- Explain the challenges linked to drug discovery
- Provide an introduction about organs-on-chips technologies: purpose, applications, users and benefits
- Give an overview of organ-on-chip history, along with a presentation of main players and their respective technologies. Who’s providing what, who’s working with who?
- Understand the limits of current technologies, how they may evolve in the coming years, what the main challenges are and how to overcome them
- Understand what the end-users expect, how the industry will be impacted, how the regulatory landscape will evolve
- Scrutinise organs-on-chips’ technical aspects, including: different types of platforms, importance of pumping systems, sources of cells, materials and manufacturing
- Provide market data and forecasts