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Roche launches Institute of Human Biology to accelerate breakthroughs in R&D by unlocking the potential of human model systems

  • The Institute of Human Biology aims to better predict which drug candidates are safe and most effective in patients by evolving and increasing the use of human model systems.
  • Human model systems are miniature living 'replicas' of human tissues and organs that also have the potential to reduce reliance on animal testing.
  • The institute brings together scientists from academia and industry to lead the broad adoption of human model systems in pharmaceutical R&D as well as in clinical practice.

Basel, 4 May 2023 - Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) announced today the launch of the Institute of Human Biology (IHB) focussing on advancing research in the field of human model systems such as organoids. Leveraging human model systems, the institute aims to accelerate drug discovery and development by improving the understanding of how organs function and how diseases develop. Ultimately, this will help to bring medicines to patients faster. These efforts will also enable early testing of which drug candidates are safe and which molecules would work best for each patient.

Human model systems are miniature 2D or 3D living 'replicas' of human tissues and organs that scientists create from human stem cells. By mirroring human and disease biology more accurately than animal models, they can also help reduce the reliance on animal testing. In addition, human model systems may enable the discovery of new human biology (in health and disease) and identification of drug targets that are impossible to find with classical discovery approaches.

“Human model systems such as organoids are the future of our industry. They have the potential to enhance almost all the steps involved in the research and development of an innovative medicine”, says Prof. Dr. Hans Clevers, Head of Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED) at Roche and a pioneer in the field of organoids. “The IHB will address long-standing and urgent challenges in drug discovery and development with the ambition to bring more effective and safer medicines to patients faster.”

Thanks to a new innovative set-up of the institute, scientists and bioengineers from academia and the pharmaceutical industry will work together at the newly launched institute based in Basel, Switzerland. Together, they will study human biology and advance the broad adoption of human model systems in pharmaceutical research and development as well as in clinical practice. The researchers at the IHB can pursue exploratory basic research with great scientific freedom and also apply the latest basic research and cutting-edge technology and bioengineering know-how to real-world challenges. The insights gained will not only inform Roche’s drug discovery and development projects, but many will also be made available to the broader scientific community and regulatory authorities.

“The work at the IHB has the potential to redefine how we discover and develop medicines over the next decade”, says Dr. Matthias Lutolf, Head IHB at Roche. “The institute is uniquely positioned in bringing together biology, bioengineering and data science around human model systems and applying them to real-world challenges in drug discovery and research.”

The IHB is expected to grow to around 250 scientists and bioengineers over the next four years. Researchers from the IHB will work closely with the world’s leading experts and scientific partners, and exchange on the most advanced and diverse scientific views in pursuit of better, faster drug development.

To learn more about the Institute of Human Biology and how Roche is pioneering new approaches for drug discovery and development, visit our IHB website and read this story.