Emulate is moving cosmetics product testing onto biotech chips

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Emulate, biotech, testing, chip, Boston
Emulate, biotech, testing, chip, Boston

Related tags Organ

The life sciences firm just opened a permanent headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, where it will continue work on flexible plastic chips that simulate a body’s worth of organs for product and ingredient testing.

Emulate launched in the summer of 2014, when it spun off from the Wyss Institute at Harvard University as a privately-held company.

Advancing technology

Emulate develops chips that contain organ cells and respond to testing much the way a live body would. Reputable companies like Merk and Johnson & Johnson use Emulate chips now and, according to the Boston Business Journal, at least one cosmetics company is using them too.

An earlier version of this biotech solution came from researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology. That team developed liver-on-chip technology, as Cosmetics Design reported​ in August.

Emulate has taken the tech much further. “No one is doing what we’re doing in that we don’t just have one organ, we have a whole system,” ​Geraldine Hamilton, president and chief science officer for the company, tells the press. 

Emulate has“developed a series of chips designed to simulate how the lungs, liver, kidneys and brain work,” ​explains the Boston Business Journal. “They consist of small, plastic sheets with living cells attached and channels etched into them through which a liquid (containing components of blood) flows to keep the cells alive. They are flexible, and can even simulate, for example, the expansion of the lungs during breathing.”

Location, location, location

The Innovation District and Drydock Avenue in Boston is a swiftly growing campus of biotech companies, startups, and corporations creating the future of ideas, services, and products. GE is set to build its world headquarters there this year.

The district got its start as a pet project of former Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who endeavored to transform the area’s 1,000 undeveloped acres. Menino called the initiative both “deliberate” ​and “experimental,” ​on the district’s website.

Emulate isn’t the only company on Drydock Ave that’s changing the beauty business. Ginkgo Bioworks, an organism engineering company, is there too. Ginkgo is, among other things, putting yeast to work to create new fragrance notes.

The company partnered with Robertet late last year to develop a collection of cultured lactone ingredients. “Most fragrances are built from a combination of ingredients that are extracted from plants and synthesized chemically. Cultured ingredients add a new option of scents that are produced biologically through fermentation,” Christina Agapakis, creative director at Ginkgo, told Cosmetics Design​.

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