If you could not attend the inaugural Microphysiological System (MPS) World Summit in New Orleans earlier this month, but it is on your radar for next year, below are some meeting highlights from key team members to help inform your decision-making.
Overall, there were plenty of positives to report and much to be excited about for the meeting next year. As proud event sponsors, we were thrilled to see so many opportunities to network and share insights to collectively move the field forward together. The team came back exhausted from a hectic week of poster presentations, educational workshops, talks and our customer dinner – but satisfied and happy to have caught up with so many new and familiar faces in the Organ-on-a-chip (OOC) field. Overall, for us, it was a huge success.
For those who like stats, the meeting attracted over 650 delegates with 70% attending in person, which for an inaugural meeting in the COVID era exceeded our expectation. Roughly, 60 attendees were from academia/students and 40% were from industry. Most attendees were from North America, almost 25% from Europe and around 10% from the rest of the world.
Insights from our US Field Application Scientist Dr Anthony Berger:
In terms of highlights, the variety and complexity of the MPS products on display in the exhibition hall were top of the list for me. Coming from a background developing complex in vitro models in academic labs, I’m very familiar with how cumbersome and intimidating MPS platforms can be – from yards of tubing to almost-superstitious steps in protocols, ease of use was not always the primary priority.
Many biologists want to adopt better, more predictive models based on these new technologies; they do not want to adopt these new technologies to develop better models. It is a small but important distinction often overlooked when developing MPS platforms. So, it was refreshing to see many commercial products that supplied tissue models of increased physiological relevance without the associated technical difficulties.
Furthermore, it was extremely helpful to hear the perspectives of the engineers designing the MPS platforms and the biologists interested in utilizing them. From the roundtable talks, centred on validating and trusting these models, to our user-update meeting which focused on gathering feedback from our customer base and gauging which future applications could be most beneficial, it certainly felt like collaboration towards a common goal.”
While I spent most of my time at the booth, I did manage to attend the keynote lectures. As is always the case with the juggernauts of a field, Dr Linda Griffith and Dr Donald Ingber gave impressive presentations. Their research histories are so extensive and influential that, in just an hour, they can weave a research narrative that spans decades and culminates in the MPS field as we know it. It was the most fitting keynote lecture for the inaugural MPS World Summit.
Insights from our PhysioMimix® Product Manager Dr Audrey Dubourg:
First of many (we hope), this Microphysiological System (MPS) World Summit did not disappoint! From high-quality talks and poster presentations to meeting familiar faces and making new friends, we all enjoyed talking about our field of expertise and discovering what everyone had been up to over the last few years to drive the organ-on-a-chip world forward! New Orleans also offered a great scene to unwind and explore one of the American cities with some of the richest history, diversity, unique architecture and food!
Here are some of the things that caught my attention:
It was great to catch up with all the different vendors and meet new players in the field too! We all were happy to see what each other had been up to, especially after two years locked up at home! So many different technologies and creative ideas are now available to researchers to enhance their cell culture capabilities and move ever closer to recreating the human body-on-a-chip!
2. Educational workshops
It was a great idea to introduce delegates to all of the available MPS technologies/ in vitro single- and multi-organ models and their applications ahead of the conference in a speed-dating-like manner! It brought expert users, beginners, and developers together for an epic kick-off, obviously in the most sporting manner!
3. Roundtable around new alternative methodologies and standardization
Many good roundtable discussions were organized but the ones that stood out for me, as a product manager, were around the much-debated topic of standardization with key global stakeholders from the MPS, pharma and regulatory sectors in attendance. These conversations covered standardizing the use of the technologies, endpoint analysis for each organ model and moving towards regulatory approval. My take is that we are still far from relying solely on MPS/OOC models. Still, we ought to work together to standardize MPS technology and assays to ensure the generation of robust, reproducible, and reliable data that translates from the laboratory to the human.
4. Customer updates meeting and dinner
Like many senior members of the CN Bio team and a good percentage of our users attending the meeting, we took the opportunity to become reacquainted after 2.5 years of virtually meeting online. We seized the moment to share updates and learn from each other, followed by a dinner at Antoine’s, one of the culinary landmarks of New Orleans. It was a treat to discuss the current use and future needs for MPS with users from Regulatory Agencies, Academia and Pharma, and then socialize.
There were opportunities to network everywhere! Posters to discuss the latest science, the exhibition for a chance to learn about the latest technology and various social gatherings. I enjoyed the opportunity to unwind and chat more casually at the many conference events. From playing queen of the Mississippi on the Creole Queen Paddle-wheeler to the Macro party, we all enjoyed the local food, drinks and jazz band to make us boogie through the night!
Overall, it was an intense summit through and through but worth it! We got to discover newcomers, rediscover old friends, and debate what makes MPS the “gold standard” technology of the future for cell culture. We are still far from mainstream use, but this meeting and our collective drive to make in vitro assays more predictive bring us closer to our ultimate goal!
I am looking forward to what next year’s summit will bring!
One last word from us:
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the hard work of The John Hopkins University Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing (CAAT), which organized the event with the support of more than 40 organizations. Thank you, and we look forward to seeing you again next year!