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04 Jul 2024

Spotlight on Therapeutics: How are human organoids shaping the future of pandemic response?

Over the past 15 years, 90% of therapeutic drugs failed at human clinical trial. As a result, the cost of discovery has blown out to $US 2.8 billion per drug.

Failure is usually due to lack of efficacy. This happens because pre-trial testing conducted on animals and cell lines cannot exactly replicate human response.

What is a human organoid?

A human organoid is a miniature organ model grown from stem cells. They retain key characteristics and function of their tissue of origin and are very accurate models of infection.

The Doherty Institute’s Professor Elizabeth Vincan and her team are developing human organoids to improve the efficiency of therapeutic drug development to treat infectious diseases.

“SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, targets the nose epithelium. To inform public health measures, testing on a human organoid, which replicates the inside of the nose, was key to understanding how the Delta variant spread so efficiently," Professor Vincan said.

What is the blue sky vision?

“We are developing models of the brain, nose, throat, lungs, liver and gut – the organs most affected by infectious disease.

“Our dream is for human organoids to become scalable and widely adopted by public health laboratories. They should be readily available for future pandemic response,” Professor Vincan said. 

Project title: Human organoids: Innovative, authentic models of infection

Chief Investigator: Professor Elizabeth Vincan

Co-Investigators: Dr Hoanh Tran, Dr Bang Tran, Dr Sarah Harbach and Dr George Kastrappis.

Spotlight on Therapeutics: This content series profiles the projects and people behind the Cumming Global Centre for Pandemic Therapeutics innovative research.