How Organ-on-a-Chip Contract Research Services can allow the pharmaceutical industry to overcome Eroom’s Law—the biggest challenge in drug development

Eroom’s Law: The Biggest Problem in Drug Development 

In 1965, during the computing industry’s nascency, Intel CEO Gordon Moore predicted that, every two years, the number of transistors computer microchips held would double and chip costs would halve. Nearly 60 years later, Moore’s Law has held true, with technology becoming more advanced and less expensive for industries across the board, including life sciences; despite this, drug development has seen the opposite effect. Even with tremendous improvements in the study of human biology—some caused by the phenomenon Moore’s Law describes—the cost of advancing a compound through clinical trials to FDA approval continues to skyrocket. “Eroom’s Law”, coined by Economist Jack Scannell as a cheeky reversal of Moore’s Law, observes that drug development is only slowing down and getting more expensive. On average, a new drug takes 10 years and costs $1.3 billion to develop, even though 90% of new drugs that enter Phase 1 clinical trials will go on to fail.   

Why is this? The 90% failure rate can be attributed to many factors: 40% of drug failure is attributable to a lack of clinical efficacy; 30% is due to toxicity; and another 10% can be linked to poor pharmacokinetics. However, each of these reasons boil down to the pharmaceutical industry’s inability to predict human response using the current preclinical models.  

To escape this industry-wide quagmire and enter a new era in drug development, researchers need next-generation models that can anticipate human response to a drug before it enters the clinic. Organ-on-a-Chip technology sustains the lives of human cells, providing an in vivo-relevant microphysiological environment in which researchers can test drugs and understand how they will affect humans. By identifying a drug’s toxicities and validating its mechanisms of action before it reaches clinical trials, researchers can abandon bad drugs before they accrue billions of dollars and decades in development.  

While deploying Organ-on-a-Chip technology in-house is typically the best long-term solution, there are several barriers that companies may face in doing so. Some may not have the resources, personnel, or lab space needed. Some may not currently understand how data produced from Organ-on-a-Chip studies could benefit their decision making. And some may think that their existing models are enough, that the failure rate pervasive in drug production isn’t caused by the models they use. For these individuals, contract research services are the perfect place to start using Organ-on-a-Chip technology. 

The Benefits of Outsourcing Organ-Chip Studies

The effort it takes to implement an Organ-Chip system in a lab can be a barrier to adoption, especially for small pharmaceutical companies. Furthermore, it takes time and dedicated personnel to become adept at using Organ-Chips. As such, pharmaceutical companies can benefit significantly from the vast experience that Organ-Chip providers have with myriad models and applications—whatever you’re looking to study, they’ve likely done something similar before and can apply that knowledge to your study. By outsourcing studies to Organ-Chip providers, pharmaceutical companies can achieve quicker results, more robust insights, and keep their focus on their drug development programs.  

For companies looking to use their time most effectively, contract research services allow them to complete studies in a matter of weeks and obtain critical insights into the safety or efficacy of candidate compounds. This means that labs of all sizes can benefit from the power of Organ-Chips without having to dedicate the time necessary to bring the technology fully in house.  

Contract services allow companies to start small, conducting pilots on one or two compounds and validating the results against other data. If these results are promising, a follow-up study may come next. The same incremental approach can be applied to testing donor tissues, starting with one and eventually expanding to multiple donors (ensuring the model is biologically robust).  

This field is rapidly evolving, and new organ models are constantly in development. Organ-Chip companies are poised to work with collaborators and create new models suited to their unique needs.  

Counteracting Eroom’s Law

So, how do Organ-Chip contract research services counteract Eroom’s Law? By making next-generation drug discovery methods available to a wider range of labs, these services can help bring more drugs to market at lower costs. Organ-Chips are a powerful alternative to cell and animal models because they can more accurately predict human responses and reduce costs. These technologies enable developers to identify toxic or ineffective compounds earlier in the drug development process to create a more efficient drug development pipeline in which higher quality candidates progress to human trials. This could lead to more successful development cycles and ultimately reverse Eroom’s Law. 

The easiest way to start incorporating Organ-on-a-Chip technology into drug development programs is to outsource initial studies to an experienced Organ-Chip company. These studies can provide crucial insights into human responses in weeks, helping companies make the best choices about their emerging drugs, avoid a costly clinical trial failure, and, most importantly, save lives through the creation of higher quality drugs.