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Industry Insight | 5th December 2018

Humanization: Exciting Emerging Technologies Within Drug Discovery

Read Time: 2 minutes

New evidence shows that a systems-biology based approach (humanization) could be better at predicting adverse drug reactions and drug toxicity than current methods. 1

With recent demand to reduce the cost and time of the drug discovery process, big pharma and biotech start-ups are investing in a human-focused approach.  

From in vitro and in silico, to human in vivo methodologies there is a wide range of new approaches to getting a drug through the discovery process. All of which aim to reduce costs and increase both the speed and accuracy of drug discovery. 

High failure rates for drugs in general can make drug discovery not only a costly ordeal, but it can hold back some truly innovative treatments from reaching markets. In addition, with the severity of adverse drug reactions in later clinical trials, a new approach with more accurate, human-relevant results is highly sought after.  

One example of these new technologies is organoids: simplified in vitro versions of organs, capable of modelling specific functions. This emerging technology is set to help the advancement of research within disease modelling, drug development and drug toxicity.  

Recently, a bioengineered human cardiac model has made headlines as it supports the research of human cardiovascular disease—a condition responsible for 17.9 million deaths per annum globally. 3 

The bioengineered heart uses electrical stimulation on stem cell models to promote cellular maturity to create models that resemble an adult heart. This is said to help inform dose selection, drug-drug interaction and identification of the best therapeutic strategy. When using this approach with the use of patient-derived stem cells to create bespoke disease models it will, in theory, create accurate predictive models for disease onset, progression and drug response. 2

With involvement of AI and big investments, the platform of ‘humanization’ is emerging rapidly. Just recently, Fusion Antibodies signed an agreement with Analytics Engines to bring AI to its humanization platform. This will allow their clients to create a large panel of humanized antibodies directly from multiple species to allow drug candidates to be screened quicker. 4 

In a study published earlier this year by STEM CELLS, researchers at Newcastle University, introduce an organoid model that can encompass human retinal cell types and is responsive to light.  

Ultimately, as with many other companies doing the same, it is to help fulfil their long-term goal of reducing costs and accelerating clinical timelines. Which will then greatly impact patients and their access to new treatments.  

Evidently, a race to humanize drug discovery is taking place. At Onyx Health, we’re at the heart of drug discovery and so we will be paying close attention to the rapid growth of these fascinating technologies. Ready for any new challenges.  



1. EurekaAlert, 2018 2. Medical Express, 2018 3. World Health Organization, 2018 4. Outsourcing-Pharma,2018 5. 2018
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