Skip to main content

£600k awarded for proof-of-concept studies to advance the development of New Approach Methodologies

15 February 2024

Six teams have been awarded up to £100k each in CRACK IT Challenge funding to deliver proof-of-concept studies to address two Challenges that aim to accelerate the development and use of New Approach Methodologies (NAMs – replacement technologies for assessing drug and chemical safety)*. 

The Challenges focus on advancing the utility and reproducibility of organ-on-a-chip (OoC) technologies and developing improved in vitro assays for developmental toxicity. The Challenges are sponsored by 11 organisations who will support project delivery through providing in-kind contributions and end-user input.


Organ-on-a-chip (OoC) technologies are increasingly delivering key tools to improve disease modelling, safety and efficacy testing and reduce the reliance on animals. Their potential to provide faster, cheaper and more physiologically relevant human cell-based models is currently limited, in part, by the time consuming and labour-intensive sampling approaches to obtain data. To fully characterise the local OoC microenvironment, assess the effects of drugs and best utilise the data collected, continuous monitoring of dynamic physiological parameters is needed.

Sponsored by AstraZeneca, Bayer AG, GSK, Merck Healthcare KGaA, Novartis and UCB, this, our second mega-Challenge, aims to capitalise on the advances already made in the field of OoCs to improve the utility and reproducibility of connected OoC devices by integrating real-time multiparametric monitoring. The Challenge will focus on liver and heart OoCs as exemplars to demonstrate that continuous in-line monitoring improves the useability, robustness and understanding of baseline OoC physiology and their responses to drugs. 

The teams awarded proof-of-concept funding are:

  • Dr Bjorn de Wagenaar – Netherlands Organisation for applied scientific research TNO, The Netherlands
  • Dr Enrico Accastelli – TissUse GmbH, Germany
  • Dr Torsten Mayr – PyroScience AT GmbH, Germany
  • Dr Emily Richardson – CN Bio Innovations Ltd, UK

During the proof-of-concept phase the teams will focus on selecting and integrating sensors into a liver model for in-line monitoring of baseline liver function and metabolism. Once completed, awardees can apply for up to £2.6M to address the full Challenge requirements over five years.

Full Challenge information can be found on the SensOoChip Challenge page.


Drugs intended for the treatment of women of child-bearing potential must be tested for teratogenicity – the potential for the drug to cause harm to a developing embryo or fetus. Current studies typically involve evaluation in pregnant animals in two species (a rodent and non-rodent). Various alternative models exist, but there is a need to develop improved in vitro assays both in human and in preclinically relevant species to aid with translation and understanding of species-specific effects and human relevancy. 

Sponsored by AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Bayer AG, Boehringer Ingelheim, LEO Pharma A/S, Merck Healthcare KGaA, MMV Medicines for Malaria Venture, Novartis and Roche, the aim of this Challenge is to develop and qualify an in vitro approach that can reliably predict early or surrogate indicators of teratogenicity of pharmaceutical drug candidates. 

The teams awarded proof-of-concept funding are:

  • Dr Amer Jamalpoor – Toxys, The Netherlands
  • Dr Naomi Moris – The Francis Crick Institute, UK

During the proof-of-concept phase, the teams will establish and characterise in vitro assays in human and one preclinical species. Once complete, awardees can apply for up to £1M over three years to deliver the full Challenge requirements. 

Full Challenge information can be found on the CrossDART Challenge page.

“We are delighted to be supporting six exciting proof-of-concept projects accelerating the development and impact of New Approach Methodologies. The SensOoChip and Cross DART Challenges tackle key areas of animal use in drug development and we are looking forward to collaborating with the teams and our Challenge Sponsors.”

Dr Cathy Vickers, NC3Rs Head of Innovation 


* CRACK IT brings together academia, industry and SMEs to develop innovative solutions into marketable products or services that will have significant 3Rs impact across the bioscience sector.

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