Global programmes and initiatives

Funding and partnerships have been critical in supporting OoC development and moving it towards commercialisation and adoption. The table below summarises some of the past and on-going global programmes and initiatives in the OoC field. This is a non-exhaustive list.

Programme/Initiative Overview References and useful resources
The Tissue Chip for Drug Screening Programme led by the National Centre for Advancing Translational Sciences, part of the National Institute of Health

The programme was launched in 2012 with the aim to develop tissue chips of human organ systems to better predict drug safety and efficacy.


A range of diverse platforms have been developed and two Tissue Chip Testing Centres and a Tissue Chip Database Centre have been established to independently test and validate these platforms.


The programme continues to grow focusing on efficacy and disease modelling, personalised medicine, the immune system and tissue chips in space.

Papers describing the programme and outputs:

  • Low and Tagle (2017a).
  • Low and Tagle (2017b).
  • Low and Tagle (2017c).
  • Tagle (2019).
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) microphysiological systems programme The programme was launched in 2012 with the aim to develop an in vitro platform linking ten or more organ systems together to evaluate the safety and efficacy of novel medical countermeasures (e.g. emerging infectious diseases and chemical or biological attack). Funding was awarded to teams from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Wyss Institute, which led to the development of two platforms.

DARPA report summarising the programme and outputs.

Papers describing the platforms developed:

  • Edington et al. (2018).
  • Herland et al. (2020).
  • Novak et al. (2020).
The Innovation and Quality (IQ) consortium MPS affiliate (IQ MPS affiliate) A not-for-profit organisation of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to facilitate cross-pharma collaboration and data sharing of microphysiological systems (MPS), raising awareness of and supporting MPS qualification and implementation. A series of papers was published in Lab on a Chip outlining the pharmaceutical industry perspectives and considerations for developing, evaluating and characterisating MPS models to support drug discovery and development – see Fabre et al. (2020).
The North American 3Rs Collaborative (NA3RsC) Microphysiological Systems Initiative The NA3RsC has established the MPS initiative to encourage collaborations to increase adoption and regulatory acceptance of the technology. The initiative includes representatives from providers of commercial systems and end-users.   
The German GO-Bio multi-organ bioreactor programme A GO-Bio grant was awarded to the Technisch Universitat Berlin in collaboration with TissUse GmbH and the Fraunhofer IWS in Dresden and the Fraunhofer IGB in Stuttgart.

Papers describing the multi-organ models developed including a human 3D liver and skin model and an ADME chip connecting human intestine, skin, liver and kidney:

  • Wagner et al. (2013).
  • Maschmeyer et al. (2015).
  • Marx et al. (2020).
EU body-on-a-chip Funding was awarded to a consortium including InSphero AG (Switzerland), ETH Zurich (Switzerland)), KU Leuven (Belgium), Technical University Dortmund (Germany) and AstraZeneca to develop a device that interconnects multi-organ tissue models. This led to the generation of a plate-base device commercialised by InSphero as the AkuraTM Flow.  
The Netherlands Institute for Human Organ and Disease Model Technologies (hDMT) Initiated in 2015, hDMT is a pre-competitive, not-for-profit technological R&D institute integrating human stem cell technologies with academic and industry expertise to develop human organ and disease models-on-a-chip. Focus areas include vessels-on-chip/vascular disease, heart-on-chip/cardiac diseases, cancer-on-chip and brain-on-chip.  
The Netherlands Organ-on Chip Initiative (NOCI) Funded by the Ministry of Education, culture and Science in 2017, NOCI aims to develop platforms combining human stem cells and OoC technologies to better predict the effect of medicines with a focus on cardiovascular, brain and gastrointestinal diseases.  
ORgan-on-Chip In Development (ORCHID) A Horizon 2020 funded EU initiative started in 2017 with the aim of creating an OoC roadmap and building a network of academic, research, industrial and regulatory institutions to move the technologies from the laboratory towards adoption.

The project has finished and the roadmap has been published. The roadmap will continue to be implemented through the European Organ-on-Chip Society established in 2018 as one of the outputs from ORCHID. The Society, a not-for-profit organisation, provides opportunities to share knowledge and expertise in the field, and runs an annual conference.

Paper outlining the roadmap: Mastrangeli et al. (2019).

The Centre for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT)/CAAT Europe T4 Think Tank on microphysiological systems In 2015, a CAAT Transatlantic Think Tank of Toxicology (t4) workshop, brought together global stakeholders to discuss the status of OoC technologies for industry needs and requirements to facilitate adoption and regulatory acceptance. In 2019, a subsequent workshop was held to discuss the barriers that need to be overcome for the technology to be adopted by the pharmaceutical industry and to achieve regulatory acceptance. Paper summarising the 2015 workshop: Marx et al. (2016).

Paper summarising the recommendations from the 2019 workshop highlighting where the technology has started to be implemented in the pharmaceutical industry and a road map to adoption and regulatory acceptance: Marx et al. (2020).
The UK Organ-on-a-chip Technologies Network A network funded by the MRC, EPSRC and BBSRC to capture, inspire and grow the UK research activity in the OoC field.  
The Japanese Agency for Medical Research and Development The project aims to develop OoCs populated with cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells that can be applied for safety and pharmacokinetics in drug discovery, with a focus on liver, intestine, kidney and the blood-brain barrier.  


Edington CD et al. (2018). Interconnected Microphysiological Systems for Quantitative Biology and Pharmacology Studies. Scientific Reports 8: 4530. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-22749-0

Fabre K et al. (2020). Introduction to a Manuscript Series on the Characterization and Use of Microphysiological Systems (MPS) in Pharmaceutical Safety and ADME Applications. Lab on a Chip 20(6): 1049–1057. doi: 10.1039/c9lc01168d  

Herland A et al. (2020). Quantitative prediction of human pharmacokinetic responses to drugs via fluidically coupled vascularized organ chips. Nature Biomedical Engineering. doi: 10.1038/s41551-019-0498-9

Low LA and Tagle DA (2017a). Organs-on-chips: Progress, challenges, and future directions. Experimental Biology and Medicine 242(16): 1573–1578. doi: 10.1177/1535370217700523

Low LA and Tagle DA (2017b). Microphysiological Systems (“Organs-on-Chips”) for Drug Efficacy and Toxicity Testing. Clinical and Translational Science 10(4): 237–239. doi: 10.1111/cts.12444

Low LA and Tagle DA (2017c). Tissue Chips - innovative tools for drug development and disease modelling. Lab Chip 17(18): 3026–3036. doi: 10.1039/c7lc00462a

Marx U et al. (2016). Biology-inspired Microphysiological System Approaches to Solve the Prediction Dilemma of Substance Testing. ALTEX- Alternatives to animal experimentation 33(3): 272–321. doi: 10.14573/altex.1603161

Marx U et al. (2020). Biology-inspired microphysiological system to advance medicines for patient benefit and animal welfare. ALTEX- Alternatives to animal experimentation 37(3): 365–394. doi: 10.14573/altex.2001241

Mastrangeli M et al. (2019). Building blocks for a European Organ-on-Chip roadmap. ALTEX- Alternatives to animal experimentation 36(3): 481–492. doi: 10.14573/altex.1905221

Maschmeyer I et al. (2015). A four-organ-chip for interconnected long-term co-culture of human intestine, liver, skin and kidney equivalents. Lab chip 15(12): 2688–2699. doi: 10.1039/c5lc00392j

Novak R et al. (2020). Robotic fluidic coupling and interrogation of multiple vascularized organ chips. Nature Biomedical Engineering. doi: 10.1038/s41551-019-0497-x

Tagle DA (2019). The NIH microphysiological systems program: developing in vitro tools for safety and efficacy in drug development. Current Opinion in Pharmacology 48: 146–154. doi: 10.1016/j.coph.2019.09.007

Wagner I et al. (2013). A dynamic multi-organ chip for long-term cultivation and substance testing proven by 3D human liver and skin tissue co-culture. Lab Chip 13(18): 3538–3547. doi: 10.1039/c3lc50234a