Drug screening technologies and mechano-pharmacology

The field of ‘tissue-on-a-chip’ (tissue chip) and ‘organ-on-a-dish’ is evolving rapidly and is opening opportunities in drug discovery, toxin screening, and disease modelling.

The drug discovery and development process has been long and costly, with high failure rates. However, the advancement in stem cell technology and new tissue chip models are making use of biomimetic engineering to develop in-vitro models that replicate the functions of organs in an artificial micro environment.

The development of tissue chips and organ-on-a-dish that can mimic neural, liver, lung and other organ functions for the testing of potential new drugs is showing promise and is gaining commercial momentum.

The drug-screening technologies and mechano-pharmacology research program at the Graeme Clark Institute is part of the University of Melbourne’s Therapeutic Technologies Hallmark Research Initiative, which focuses on new applications of mechano-pharmacology and organ-on-a-chip technology to transform drug-screening processes.

The research will move drug-screening technology from the current standard 2D cell culture on rigid plastic substrate to new microfluidic 3D environments.


  • Drug screening and evaluation with decreased assay volume, accelerated sample processing and readout using biomechanical assay.
  • Cellular and micro-tissue mechanics and mechano-pharmacology – methods to quantify cell and tissue biomechanical properties, and correlating this to diseases and drug efficacy.
  • Microfabrication for Cell/Tissue-on-a-chip technology to improve accuracy of preclinical predictions of human drug responses.
  • Computational modelling to predict cell and tissue behaviour in a physiological 3D micro-environment.


  • Transforming drug screening and evaluation
    Partnering with industry to take proof-of-concept studies through to the “working model” stage and then to a level of industry-utility, focussing on predictive value, reproducibility and throughput.

More information:

Program Leader

Professor Alastair Stewart

Professor Peter Lee.