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£2.4M awarded for Phase 2 of the 2020 CRACK IT Challenges competition

17 January 2022

Three teams have each been awarded funding to deliver the second phase of the 2020 CRACK Challenges*.  

CRACK IT Challenges is the NC3Rs open innovation funding competition which brings together industry, academia and SMEs to deliver ready-to-use products and services to replace, reduce and refine animal use. Challenges are developed in collaboration with Sponsors who provide in-kind contributions and/or co-funding to support development of the Challenge product.  

The Challenges and awardees are:  

Challenge 35: In vitro TDAR  

Immune modulators are defined as therapeutics that modify the immune response and are a rapidly growing drug class in preclinical drug development. Regulatory guidelines require that any potential adverse effects of new pharmaceutical agents are evaluated prior to use and recommend use of the in vivo t-cell dependent antibody response (TDAR) assay to assess immunotoxic effects, which is usually conducted in rodents or non-human primates. A robust in vitro human immune response assay could better predict clinical outcomes and reduce the number of animals used to assess immunotoxicity. 

Sponsored by Bayer AG, GSK, Merck Healthcare KGaA and Novartis Pharma AG, the aim of this Challenge is to develop a human in vitro TDAR assay to assess the immune enhancement properties of immunomodulatory therapeutics during drug development.  

Phase 2 funding has been awarded to a multi-disciplinary team led by Dr Karla Queiroz, Mimetas B.V. to deliver the project TDAR-on-a-chip: a human in vitro HTS TDAR assay platform.  

Full information about this Challenge is available on the In vitro TDAR Challenge page

Challenge 36: Animal-free in vitro  

The Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) Guidelines for the Testing of Chemicals include a growing number of in vitro assays that can be used as alternatives to animal studies. There is increasing interest for these assays to also be free from animal-derived products to improve human relevance and reproducibility, and to reduce the use of animals.  

Sponsored by AstraZeneca and Unilever, and co-funded by Unilever, this Challenge aims to adapt established OECD Test Guideline in vitro assays so that they are free from animal-derived products, delivering a robust, human-relevant (and preferably chemically defined) version of the assays that demonstrates improved data quality and reproducibility.  

Phase 2 funding has been awarded to a team led by Dr Victoria Hutter, ImmuOne Ltd to deliver the project: Establishing in vitro OECD test guidelines assays (TG487 and TG455) free from animal-derived products.  

Full information about this Challenge is available on the Animal-free in vitro Challenge page

Challenge 37: STRATIS 

Volumetric muscle loss (VML) wounds are complex, involving skin, muscle and associated structures, and often exhibit sub-optimal healing with poor response to reconstructive and resulting in long-term scarring. Due to this complexity, the development of preclinical models is challenging. In vivo models, such as rodent models, have different pathophysiology than humans, ex vivo models have a limited physiological viability and current in vitro models have a simplified architecture and do not translate well into the clinic.  

Sponsored by Dstl, and co-funded by Dstl and EPSRC, this Challenge aims to produce a human-relevant and high throughput in vitro or ex vivo platform that recapitulates the complex structures of skeletal muscle and the pathology of significant injury to them. The development of this model could replace a significant number of animal models used in the screening and testing of regenerative therapeutics.  

Phase 2 funding as been awarded to a team led by Professor Mark Lewis, Loughborough University, to deliver the project 3D assays of vascularised and innervated human skeletal muscle injury for functional screening of pro-regenerative therapeutics.  

Full information about this Challenge is available on the STRATIS Challenge page


*Two Phase CRACK IT Challenges are run using the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) process which is supported by Innovate UK. Further information about the CRACK IT Challenges competition process can be found on our Challenge pages.