Q&A with Alex Armento

Posted on August 8, 2023 |
Categories News

Welcome to our Q&A session with our CEO, Alex Armento, on the use of animal models and the future impacts of in vitro technology on the biotech industry and human health. Discover the immense potential and transformative impact of MatTek’s in vitro tissue technology.

Do you think that we will completely eliminate the use of animal models in research?

This is certainly an aspiration for our team and a major goal in the work that we do for two different reasons. First, from an ethical standpoint we would like to reduce the usage of animals wherever possible. Second, animal models are incomplete in depicting the natural structure, function and physiology of the human in vivo environment and we desire to move researchers towards in vitro models that are more relevant than conventional animal models which are incomplete. In many fields and applications, we have been able to completely remove the use of animals and we are very proud of the fact that we have been a leader in this field for over the last 30 years. Recent legislation such as the FDA Modernization Act 2.0 have also codified many of these aspirations so that companies can now move away more easily from these models. I would say we have made a lot of progress in reducing the use of animals and as we go forward, I think it is possible that animals will be removed from many if not most applications.

What are you most excited about working at MatTek?

The two things that excite me the most about MatTek are the impact we are having on the space we are in and also our future roadmap for shaping the field. Every single day, our products are used in thousands of research projects around the world and are pivotal to the advancement of science and making sure that cosmetics, therapeutics and agrochemicals making it to market are safe and efficacious. As we look to the future, we are working to develop tissue and cell culture models for every organ system in the body and to do it in a way that leverages our decades of experience in building high quality and reproducible models which can be used from basic research all the way to regulated studies. I find our ability to literally build and shape this field in our lab as incredibly exciting as we have the opportunity to change the way that research is conducted around the world.

Why do you think the advanced cell culture space has grown so rapidly in the last few years?

The primary driver of this growth is that researchers have always understood that having more predictive in vitro and in vivo models means that drugs will get to patients more quickly and at a lower cost due to fewer late-stage failures. Only in the last few years have all of the tools started to come together to enable researchers to more easily build complex in vitro models which better mimic in vivo human physiology and functionally. With these advancements, researchers are now able to better predict clinical pharmacology, toxicity, and efficacy and these developments become self-fulfilling. For example, as researchers demonstrate that more complex models better predict clinical liver toxicity, significantly more efforts will be placed into developing these models. At MatTek, we have been at the forefront of this field for over 30 years and are excited to see the adoption of these models accelerating and becoming more widespread.

Where do you see exciting growth areas for this space?

Today, the three primary areas in which researchers are widely using advanced cell culture systems are in modeling epithelial tissues, modeling liver tissue and cancerous tissue. While researchers are developing and have developed models for all sorts of other applications, these three are used most predominantly because they tend to have the biggest need. Liver toxicity is a major failure point for many drugs and of course the three-dimensional structure of the tumor microenvironment has an immense influence on the efficacy of a therapeutic. In the epithelial space the drivers vary from researchers wanting to move away from animal skin models and towards non-animal alternatives such as EpiDerm or EpiDermFT. Simply having inadequate models to mimic the complexity of an organ system such as the lungs has driven us to develop EpiAirway, EpiAlveolar, and EpiNasal. I see the major growth areas being in underserved advanced cell culture spaces such as brain, kidney and heart as well as the organ-on-a-chip or human-on-a-chip fields where researchers are working to combine multiple tissues together. These multiple model systems have much promise but require significant development and validation which can be tricky to overcome.

Where is the field of organ-on-a-chip and human-on-a-chip at today?

The idea of putting organs, or multiple organs on chips comes from the concept of having connective flow analogous to what we see in the body. That adds significant value to various research questions. This is of course true for many applications but due to the engineering, and the biological and validation requirements of these models, they have been slow to be adopted. I strongly believe that multiple organs interconnected in an in vitro model could provide great value and utility but developing such a model is highly complex. We are very interested in this space and want to see it developed thoroughly as it has tremendous potential.

What does MatTek think about the FDA Modernization Act 2.0 being passed?

As a company that has been focused on reducing animal usage in testing for over 30 years, we are the forefront of this field and effort. We are very excited to see the FDA Modernization Act 2.0 signed into law and view it as a huge step in the right direction both on ethical and scientific grounds. We are at a point in the field’s maturation where many in vitro systems are now superior in clinical translatability to conventional animal models, and this legislation just makes sense scientifically. For example, there are many research questions that we can simply address better with non-animal models such as with MatTek’s microphysiological systems and the Visikol Blood Brain Barrier model.


Connect with Alex on LinkedIn for more updates on MatTek’s innovations.


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