Whilst today's society regularly regularly fools us into the belief that money is the route to happiness, most of us can recognize that there are many more ways in which we can be wealthy. As soon as we, or a close friend or relation sufferers from illness or injury, we realize that health is a top priority. In this country we are fortunately enough to have access to a range of pharmaceutical products which can aid our body's immune system, fight diseases and give us a better chance of recovery.
The UK has long been a leader in pharmaceutical research and development and many scientific minds are drawn to the laboratories of Britain in order to work at the cutting edge of pharmaceutical innovation. State of the art facilities, modern technology and medical breakthroughs means that we have the knowledge to understand the root cause of many conditions, as well as high risk groups. This provides the opportunity for early diagnosis and preventative treatments.
Costs of Development
The issue with pharmaceutical research and development is that it is a time consuming and costly. Pharmaceutical companies are understandably keen to put the majority of their budget towards the development of medicines which will generate a profit and deliver a return on their considerationable investment. For this reason, private and government funding is required to encourage exploration into untested processes, new compounds and the development of less profitable medicines, such as those for rare or tropical diseases.
It is estimated to cost around £ 1.6billion to bring a single successful compound through the entire research and development process. That is a huge cost before any patient or healthcare provider makes a purchase. Once an effective compound is identified, it will be processed into a suitable liquid or solid dosage form. As an example, tried and tested processes including pharmaceutical granulation, extrusion and spheronization are used to mix active ingredients with excipients in order to create tablets and capsules.
One of the more controversial parts of the development process is live testing. All pharmaceuticals have to undergo rigorous live testing prior to a product being approved. Whilst clinical trials on human volunteers are one of the final stages in this process, animal testing usually occurs at the early stage of live tests.
For years animal rights groups have protested against this part of the process. One argument against the process is that because animals are made up very different to humans, there is no guarantee that the human body will respond in the same way to the animal on which it has been tested. An alternative is to use human cell cultures, but as these fail to replicate the complexities of human organs, they have also failed to deliver consistently accurate results.
So, we all want to have accessible and safe medication to treat our symptoms and help us to fight disease, but we do not like the idea of animal testing being part of this process. Is there a solution?
Design of the Year 2015
Designs of the Year is an annual competition that sets out to discover design that promotes orivers change, enable access, extends design practice or captures the spirit of the times. One of this year's winners is an innovative microchip that could hold the answer to early stage live testing in pharmaceutical development.
The new microchip has been developed to closely mimic the entire process of a particular organ, which delivers the most realistic response to the introduction of disease and medical compounds. It uses cells from a specific organ in the body along with blood vessel lining cells to replicate a natural interface. In addition blood flow and breathing can be replicated on the microchip, as these factors affect results. The result is an artificial organ on a chip. So far, lung, gut and kidney chips have been created and successful used in trials.
Paela Antonelli put the microchip design forward for the competition, as she stated it was “the epitome of design innovation: elegantly beautiful form, arresting concept and pioneering application”. The human organ microchip innovation has the potential to speed up the development process, reduce costs and reduce the need for animal testing. It could lead to active ingredients being more quickly identified as safe for human consumption.