Microphysiological Systems (MPS)

The Microphysiological Systems (MPS) for COVID Research (MPSCoRe) working group held a Spring 2023 virtual workshop to facilitate discussion and collaboration about current regulatory approaches and to raise awareness of opportunities for accelerating the integration of MPS models for infectious diseases in the regulatory framework. View materials from the workshop.

If you are interested in participating in MPSCoRe activities, please contact organizers. Email should include the name and role of the interested participant and their area of expertise.

NICEATM currently uses the following working definition of MPS (also often referred to as a “tissue chip” or “organ-on-a-chip”)

an in vitro platform composed of cells; explants derived from tissues/organs; and/or organoid cell formations of human or animal origin in a micro-environment that provides and supports biochemical/electrical/mechanical responses to model a set of specific properties that define organ or tissue function.

MPS provide human cell-based platforms that enable the study both of normal organ function and effects on organ function by toxicants or pathogens. NICEATM works with federal agencies and other stakeholders to evaluate the use of MPS to replace, reduce, or refine animal use in these applications.

Supporting Adoption of MPS for COVID Research

NICEATM, the UK National Centre for the 3Rs (NC3Rs), and collaborators are organizing a working group, the MPS for COVID Research (MPSCoRe) working group, that will coordinate the use of MPS to reduce animal use in studies of COVID-19 and future emerging infectious diseases. Information about activities of the MPSCoRe working group will be posted on this webpage.

Key publications on the use of various MPS and COVID therapeutics (updated February 2023)

The MPSCoRe working group met with representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2021 to discuss research needs relevant to the biology and treatment of the Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant and the potential for MPS to provide human-relevant platforms for rapidly addressing those needs. Information about planned and completed studies on the Omicron variant is available on the WHO website and updated weekly.

A feature article published in July 2021 in Drug Discovery Today reviews MPCSCoRe activities in the context of the broader effort to apply MPS to the development of therapies for COVID-19.

Kleinstreuer N, Holmes A. 2021. Harnessing the power of microphysiological systems for COVID-19 research. Drug Discov Today.

Activities of the MPSCoRe working group were featured in a January 2023 ASCCT webinar. Amber Daniel (Inotiv, contractor supporting NICEATM) summarized the objectives, accomplishments, and ongoing activities of the MPSCoRe.

Introduction to the Microphysiological Systems Database: May 2021

This webinar provided an in depth tutorial on how to use the University of Pittsburgh Microphysiological Systems Database to find and share data on COVID-19 projects. This resource is now known as the BioSystics Analytics Platform.

Video time: approximately 1 hr




MPSCoRe Spring Workshop: April 2021

Attendees of this meeting included individuals and organizations that represent MPS stakeholders as well as COVID researchers. Videos of the workshop presentations are posted below.

Session 1: MPS Models for Testing Therapeutics

Video time: approximately 2 hrs 20 minutes – View session agenda and abstracts


Session 2: MPS Models for Understanding Disease Mechanisms

Video time: approximately 2 hrs 25 minutes – View session agenda and abstracts





MPSCoRe Organizational Meeting: January 2021

Among the topics discussed at this meeting were the limitations of animal models for studying COVID-19 and the need for high-quality study data to evaluate MPS technologies for COVID-19 studies. Data compiled will be housed at the University of Pittsburgh Microphysiology Systems Database. NICEATM is providing financial support for development of the database's MPS portal.

Summary of the January 29 meeting presentations

Below is a video of the January 29 meeting (run time approximately 1 hr 30 min). The video includes three presentations:

  • Overview of the Microphysiological Systems COVID Research (MPSCoRe) Group (Nicole Kleinstreuer, NICEATM)
  • Utilizing microphysiological systems in support of the COVID19 pandemic and beyond (Kyle Glover, U.S. Department of Defense)
  • Development of a COVID-19 disease portal in the Microphysiology Systems (MPS) Database to accelerate the development of human MPS for testing prospective therapeutics (Mark Schurdak, University of Pittsburgh)

The open discussions at the end of the meeting are not included in the video. Any mention in the video of government agencies or use of logos is solely associated with individual scientist participation and expressions of interest, and does not represent the official position or involvement of any agency, nor endorsement of any specific activity, platform, or product.


Background on the Working Group

While animal models can be useful in the study of infectious diseases, their susceptibility and manifestation of symptoms can differ substantially from humans. The need for human-based models of COVID-19 infection has resulted in rapid development of MPS of the lungs and other key organ systems affected by COVID-19. Such a rapid response on a global scale risks fragmentation and resource duplication. In turn, this presents significant challenges for model developers, drug/vaccine manufacturers, and regulatory authorities in coordinating efforts and understanding the utility and validity of the new systems.

To support the biosciences research community in overcoming these challenges, the MPSCoRe working group will address the following objectives:

  • Provide a neutral forum to facilitate interaction and engagement between international collaborative research efforts.
  • Raise awareness of COVID-19 MPS technologies and support their application in assessing the safety and efficacy of potential novel therapeutics through building connections between technology developers and end-users.
  • Work with global authorities to understand how MPS models can be considered in a regulatory context.
  • Provide cross-discipline and cross-sector expertise in discussing and characterizing model performance and readiness criteria.
  • Support the assessment of MPS against in vivo preclinical and clinical data.
  • Ensure that the 3Rs opportunities these model platforms offer are recognized.

NICEATM and NC3Rs are coordinating the working group in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, the U.S. Army DEVCOM Chemical Biological Center, and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).  Members include researchers, MPS model developers, therapeutic/vaccine manufacturers, and international regulators. Additional details about the MPSCoRe working group are available on the NC3Rs website.