UU Innovation

Fewer drug tests on animals and humans


Today, nine out of ten drugs fail in clinical tests on humans, partly due to unforeseen side effects. This is extremely costly, making it imperative for pharmaceutical companies to find more effective methods of drug development. One new way to test drugs, before trials on animals and humans, is to use a mechanical model of the human blood system. Such a tool has now been developed by a research team at Uppsala University.

Sofia Nordling and Peetra Magnusson have started the company BioFlow System to commercialise the new tool.

“There’s a great need to be able to test and analyze new drug compounds before they given to test subjects for the first time. The idea of our system is to do just this – but at the lab bench”, says Peetra Magnusson, a researcher at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology. Together with colleagues Moa Fransson and Sofia Nordling, she has developed an analysis tool that emulates our blood system, and started the company Bioflow System to take it to market.

By loading the system with human blood, users can study the immunological reactions that arise from different drugs. They can carry out quick and reliable tests, both to exclude unsuitable drug candidates early in the process as well as to replace animal experiments later on in development.

Information gathered is more valuable

“The need for experimental animals is reduced, which cuts development costs, at the same time as the testing process becomes ethically justifiable. In addition, the information gathered is more relevant and reliable since tests in mice and other laboratory animals do not always reveal all the negative effects that a drug may cause in humans”, notes Peetra.

Now their system is being testing technically under the keen eyes of engineering expertise brought into the project. But as Peetra says, working with blood is difficult because it is a very reactive biological fluid, so they still have some way to go to a fully-fledged analysis. “Testing an idea that actually has the potential to achieve something useful outside of the bounds of pure research is a key driver”, she observes, adding:

“Being an academic who is able to combine research with product development is something both new and fun. Sometimes we wish that it would all go faster, but then we’d need more hands, more time and more money. Nevertheless, we are well on track and have benefited greatly from the expertise of UU Innovation along the way”.