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Wyss Core Faculty Member Jennifer Lewis Named Winner of 2017 Lush Prize

Award is given annually to scientists making significant advances in the study of human toxicology

By Lindsay Brownell

09/15/2016 Cambridge, MA. Harvard University. This image shows a custom designed 3D printed nephron used in kidney tissue research, which is conducted by Dr. Kim Homan and Dr. David Kolesky, both members of Professor Jennifer Lewis's laboratory at Harvard University.  Lori K. Sanders/Harvard University
The Lewis Lab’s 3D bioprinting mechanism uses a special polymer “ink” (pink) to print organ-imitating tissues that can be used for in vitro toxicology studies. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) — Jennifer Lewis, ScD., Core Faculty member at the Wyss Institute and the Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), has been named a winner of the 2017 Lush Prize, and will share a portion of the £350,000 award to support her group’s research into 3D human organ-on-chip models. Lewis is attending the award ceremony today at the headquarters of Lush Cosmetics, where she will give a presentation about her work.

The Lush Prize, a joint project between Lush Cosmetics and the Ethical Consumer Research Association (ECRA), was founded in 2012 as a way of supporting initiatives to fully replace the use of animals in toxicology research. Animal studies, while notoriously inaccurate in predicting human responses to drugs and chemicals, are still widely used by the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries, largely because there are no alternative options for testing the safety of products intended for human use and consumption.

Members of the Lewis Lab’s bio-team (L-R): Sebastien Uzel, Kimberly Homan, Katharina Kroll, David Kolesky, Mark Skylar-Scott, Lucy Nam, Don Mau, John Ahrens, and Jennifer Lewis. Credit: Lewis Lab

Fully funded by Lush Cosmetics, the prize is intended to encourage the development of “21st-Century Toxicology,” a new approach to safety testing that focuses on human “toxicity pathways,” or the sequences of molecular changes within the body’s cells following exposure to a toxic chemical. The scientific elucidation of these molecular pathways for different groups of chemicals and different toxic effects makes possible the development of non-animal safety tests that, because they are based on human cells’ responses, are also more likely to accurately predict toxicity.

Lewis is a winner in the “Science Prize” category, which is awarded for work conducted on relevant toxicity pathways and other approaches that can obviate the need for the use of animals in cosmetics testing. Her research team’s collaborative work on 3D organs-on-chips, which are composed of human cells accompanied by vasculature and extracellular matrix using innovative 3D bioprinting technology, display organ-specific functionality and have the potential to demonstrate the effects of chemicals and drugs on various tissues in the human body without the need for exposing human or animal test subjects to potentially toxic substances. Lewis plans to use the funds to further accelerate her lab’s cutting edge work, with the goal of one day replacing animal models in toxicity testing globally.

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