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Engineers Are Reinventing Drug Testing

by phion
Tags: drug, engineers, reinventing, testing
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Feb4-13, 04:23 PM
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A Techwise Conversation with Nina Tandon, EE and tissue engineer

Testing newly developed drugs is utterly necessary, but it’s not without its problems. For one thing, it’s expensive. For another, it’s not very accurate—it usually starts with mice, and they’re not like people in the ways we need them to be. It continues with humans, and often even human subjects are not like the people needing the drug, in the ways we need them to be. And we’re putting those people at risk. And did I mention how expensive it is?


Nina Tandon
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Feb4-13, 04:46 PM
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Provocative title* but otherwise interesting and important work. There have been a few developments in recent years to replace stages of animal testing with tissue engineering constructs. There are even prizes:

They're not without limitations though. Testing a drug intended for treatment of a liver condition on a tissue construct is all well and good unless you miss out that there are side effects on other tissue types. There's also a lot of work ahead as there will be limited crossover between different types of tissue construct. All said it's still very exciting work.

*Implies limited input from biologists, that few are working on it, that the whole process of drug testing will be changed rather than an alteration to the pre-animal and animal-stages etc.
Feb4-13, 05:54 PM
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Quote Quote by Ryan_m_b View Post
*Implies limited input from biologists, that few are working on it, that the whole process of drug testing will be changed rather than an alteration to the pre-animal and animal-stages etc.
Oh yea, lots of impressive people working on this thing. Her early education seems to have been crucial in it's development, and leads me to wonder how much more inter-disciplinary practices will need to be implemented on the frontier of this type of work. It seems to me that once the research and development has been completed it will be people like her who help "cross the chasm" and really begin to change the world.

More on Nina:

Tissue engineer, MBA and Senior TED Fellow Nina Tandon is growing artificial hearts and bones. To do that, she needs new ways of caring for artificially grown cells—techniques she’s developed by the simple but powerful method of copying their natural environments.

Nina studies electrical signaling in the context of tissue engineering, with the goal of creating “spare parts” for human implantation and/or disease models. She is an electrical and biomedical engineer at Columbia University’s Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering, and adjunct professor of Electrical Engineering at the Cooper Union, teaching a “Bioelectricity” class. She’s published in Nature and Lab on a Chip, and Fast Company named her one of their 100 most creative people in business.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Cooper Union, Nina spent her early career in telecom (Avaya Labs) and transitioned into biomedical engineering via her Fulbright scholarship in Italy, where she worked on an electronic nose used to “smell” lung cancer. Nina’s studied electrical stimulation for cardiac tissue engineering at MIT and Columbia, has consulted at McKinsey and Company, and now continues her research on electrical stimulation for broader tissue-engineering applications.

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