Future perfected: Organs-on-Chips is a worthy winner of a design award


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The Independent Online

When viewed through the specious prism of social media, the world can seem to have harnessed technology primarily either for frivolity, or for war. So the award of the 2015 Design of the Year to Emulate Inc for its Organs-on-Chips is a reminder that technological advances also enable very clever people to push boundaries in ways beneficial to us all.

The product undoubtedly fulfils the award’s brief of promoting and delivering change. A device that can respond to drugs in the same way as the human organ it imitates has the potential to revolutionise the methods by which we develop and test new medicines. As the global population rises, and with the efficacy of long-standing medical treatments, notably antibiotics, increasingly under pressure, the work of researchers in this area is central to mankind’s future well-being.

As well as celebrating the award’s winner, kudos should also go to the Design Museum for encouraging such an extraordinary range of entrants to its competition. Other nominations included Google’s self-driving car, a vast concrete Innovation Centre at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and a set of measuring tools for 3D modelling. Beautiful and innovative design pushes each of them to the forefront of their respective fields.

That the triumph of Organs-on-Chips coincides with the broadcasting of Humans, Channel 4’s drama about the development of human-like robots, might send a chill down the spine of conspiracy theorists and Luddites alike. Some may worry where Emulate is heading with its “new living system that emulates human biology”. For its part, the company is clear: its mission is to use technology to improve human health. Any who feel anxiety about one day being overtaken by artificial intelligence should be thankful that real human intellect is being put to such productive purpose.