Tissue Chips for Disease Modeling and Efficacy Testing

In October 2016, NCATS announced a funding opportunity as part of the Tissue Chips for Disease Modeling and Efficacy Testing initiative to support further development of tissue chip models of human disease that mimic the pathology in major human organs and tissues.

In September 2017, NCATS and its NIH collaborators funded an estimated $15 million in fiscal year 2017 to fund 13 awards for the Tissue Chips for Disease Modeling and Efficacy Testing initiative. In February 2018, NCATS made an additional award. All awarded projects are milestone-driven and quantifiable. Learn more in RFA-TR-16-017.

In September 2018, NCATS contributed support to three projects that were awarded by National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases​ (NIDDK) as part of RFA-DK-17-035, "Microphysiological Systems (MPS) for Modeling Diabetes (MPS-MOD)".  

Researchers viewing brain tissue chip

Researchers view engineered 3-D vascularized neural tissues from a brain tissue chip. (Morgridge Institute for Research Photo)


NIH is interested in supporting the development and initial validation of disease models that affect the following organ systems: circulatory, endocrine, gastrointestinal, immune, dental, oral and craniofacial, skin, musculoskeletal, nervous, sensory, reproductive, respiratory, and urinary. It also is interested in models that interrogate the role of the environment in health and disease to elucidate environmental disease mechanisms and identify novel biological pathways.

The goals of the initial two-year awards in the first phase are to:

  • Support studies to develop in vitro disease models using primary tissue or induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived patient cell sources on tissue- /organ-on-chips platforms.
  • Determine disease relevance of these models by preliminary testing of key experimental features.
  • Test the effectiveness of candidate drugs.

In the second phase of the awards, researchers will build upon successful disease models to demonstrate functionality and validity of their disease models and will have a well-conceived plan to fully use the models for efficacy and safety testing of therapeutic compounds.

In developing disease models that more accurately represent human physiology and pathology, primary tissues obtained from patients may be used. However, investigators are strongly encouraged to take advantage of recent advances with human stem cells, progenitor cells, iPSCs and gene editing technologies to engineer tissues whenever feasible.


Partnerships are vital to the success of the Tissue Chip for Drug Screening program. This innovative technology encompasses expertise from disease experts and those from fields such as bioengineering, stem cell technology, organ physiology, pharmacology, toxicology, pathology and regulatory science. NCATS works with program-supported researchers as well as government officials and industry partners to ensure that project goals are met and to identify and address any needs or obstacles that arise.

Participating NIH partners include the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the NIDDK, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health.