Koppes Awarded $1.96M Early-Stage Investigator Grant from NIH
ChE Assistant Professor Ryan Koppes received a $1.96M NIH R35 MIRA (Maximizing Investigator’s Research Award) for Early Stage Investigators for “Engineering Multifaceted 3D Human Organ Platforms for Toxicity Testing.” This research will help to develop human organs-on-a-chip to improve drug toxicity testing.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recognized Assistant Professor Ryan Koppes, chemical engineering, with a $1.96 million R35 MIRA (Maximizing Investigator’s Research Award) Early-Stage Investigator grant, titled “Engineering Multifaceted 3D Human Organ Platforms for Toxicity Testing,” to support his groundbreaking work to improve the effectiveness of drug delivery. Given to young faculty members who demonstrate exceptional promise, Early-Stage Investigator awards are part of NIH’s Next Generation Researchers Initiative, aimed at promoting the growth, stability, and diversity of the biomedical research workforce.
Koppes will use the NIH funding to develop new benchtop models of the human cardiovascular system from engineered tissue. These 3D models, part of a class of research platforms called “organ on a chip,” can be used for various analysis and testing purposes, without relying on human or animal subjects.
In his Laboratory for Neuromodulation and Neuromuscular Repair, Koppes will culture cells and construct in vitro platforms that can be used to replicate the biological effects of administering therapeutic drugs. These tissue-based models―which include all the primary components of the human cardiovascular system―will demonstrate characteristics such as blood flow, oxygen saturation. and bioelectric response. As Koppes simulates different drug delivery methods and dosages, he can assess their impact on human health, without putting actual patients at risk.
“My research is part of a larger effort in the global medical community to deliver more personalized care, recognizing that every human body is unique,” explains Koppes. “A specific dose of a therapeutic drug might be well received by one patient. Yet it might cause a rapid heartbeat, or even cardiac arrest, in another patient. My work is aimed at discovering why that happens, so we can arrive at the best possible outcome for every patient.”
By developing a 3D model constructed of engineered tissue, Koppes is helping to replace extensive human and animal drug tests—which are time-consuming, expensive, and accompanied by both health and ethical issues―with a lower-risk alternative that delivers faster results. His work is intended to leapfrog current benchtop models, which are only two-dimensional and therefore limited in their ability to replicate blood flows and other physical characteristics of human organs.
Koppes is uniquely qualified to lead this research, due to his diverse background in biomaterials, organ-chip design, bioelectronics, and neuroengineering. He credits the interdisciplinary culture of the College of Engineering with providing him exposure to a range of diverse expertise, and collaborative relationships, that span both engineering and medicine.
“Throughout my five years at Northeastern, I’ve been encouraged to reach out to other departments, along with the Boston healthcare community, to conduct my research. I’ve been able to apply all my different skillsets, without being constrained by a traditional view of chemical engineering,” Koppes notes.
Koppes also brings another key success factor to the table: a genuine desire to help people. “Both of my parents were engineers, so it was a natural career path for me,” states Koppes. “But at the same time, I seriously considered a career in medicine. My research at Northeastern today is the perfect combination of engineering and healthcare, as well as theory and hands-on, practical work. I’m a natural scientific problem-solver, but also interested in creating a positive social impact. So this is the perfect environment for me.”