Emulate Unveils Brain-Chip to Enhance Neuroinflammatory Disease Research and Drug Discovery

Comprehensive neurovascular unit model emulates features of the human brain and blood-brain barrier

BOSTON, Mass. – December 21, 2020 – Emulate, Inc., a leading provider of advanced in vitro models, today unveiled the Emulate Brain-Chip, which is designed for neuroscience researchers investigating neuroinflammatory disease and for drug developers seeking to improve drug discovery for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The comprehensive model incorporates cells from the human brain, including the blood-brain barrier, in a dynamic microenvironment which enables cell-cell interaction.  

Emulate Organ-Chips, including the Brain-Chip, are designed to enable researchers to investigate the safety and efficacy of therapeutic treatments in development, in order to reduce the high drug development failure rates that result from a poor understanding of drug mechanism of action, toxicity, pharmacokinetic profile, or overall applicability and translation of animal and in vitro models used in preclinical research. 

“The global burden of neurodegenerative diseases is high, yet despite billions of dollars invested in developing new treatments, biopharmaceutical companies are struggling to develop successful therapies,” said Lorna Ewart, EVP, Science Liaison of Emulate. “Better modeling of the human brain can help researchers and pharmaceutical companies develop new understandings of the mechanisms of neuroinflammatory disease, the inner workings of the blood-brain barrier, drug toxicity, and drug effectiveness, which we hope can streamline the drug development process and bring safer, more effective treatments for neurodegenerative disease to market faster.” 

The Emulate Brain-Chip is a comprehensive model of a neurovascular unit, including the blood-brain barrier, containing five human primary and induced pluripotent stem cell-derived (iPSC) cell types (neurons, microglia, astrocytes, pericytes, and brain microvascular endothelial cells) in a dynamic, tunable microenvironment, resulting in in vivo-like gene expression. The incorporation of microglia allows researchers to reproduce key features of neuroinflammation— including microglial activation, astrogliosis, and pro-inflammatory cytokines—presenting a more human-relevant model for evaluating new therapeutics than animal testing or conventional cell culture.  

The development of the Emulate Brain-Chip was partially supported by grant funding received from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Michael J. Fox Foundation in 2018. 

Emulate will be presenting a poster on the development of the Brain-Chip as a model to study neuroinflammatory diseases at the Society for Neuroscience next month. For more information, visit our event page

About Emulate, Inc. 

Emulate Inc. is a privately held company that creates advanced in vitro models for understanding how diseases, medicines, chemicals, and foods affect human health. Our lab-ready Human Emulation System® includes three components: Zoë® Culture Module, Organ-Chips, and analytical software applications. The platform provides a window into the inner workings of human biology and disease—offering researchers a new technology designed to predict human response with greater precision and detail than conventional cell culture or animal-based experimental testing. Each of the Emulate proprietary Organ-Chip models—including the liver, intestine, and kidney—contains tiny hollow channels lined with tens of thousands of living human cells and tissues and is approximately the size of an AA battery.

An Organ-Chip is a living, microengineered environment that recreates the natural physiology and mechanical forces that cells experience within the human body. Our founding team pioneered the Organs-on-Chips technology at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. Emulate holds the worldwide exclusive license from Harvard University to a robust and broad intellectual property portfolio for the Organs-on-Chips technology and related systems. For more information, please visit emulatebio.com

Media Contact 

Gwen Gordon for Emulate