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Using Stem Mini-Organs to Find New Cures

Drs. Piedrahita and Pierce discuss how the use of mini-organs -- organoids made from stem cells -- can play a role in developing new drugs.

Published onAug 04, 2023
Using Stem Mini-Organs to Find New Cures


Developing a new drug can cost as much as a billion dollars, mostly due to the very large number of candidate drugs that fail before they get to the patient. Thus, finding ways to identify those “bad” drugs early can have a huge impact in reducing the cost of drugs and that in turn will drastically impact global health.  Drs. Piedrahita and Pierce discuss how the use of mini-organs -- organoids made from stem cells -- can play a role in solving this wicked problem. They address some of the limitations of organoids and what is being done to overcome those limitations.

Jorge Piedrahita, Ph.D., is a faculty member in the Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Piedrahita is presently the Randall B. Terry, Jr. Distinguished Professor of translational medicine, Alumni Association Distinguished Graduate Professor & the co-director of the Comparative Medicine Institute. Dr. Piedrahita's research group focuses on the behavior of stem cells in vitro and in vivo and the development of large animal models for use in human and veterinary regenerative medicine. His research combines techniques in functional genomics, stem cells, cell biology, embryo manipulation and molecular biology. An area of increasing focus in his lab is the use of stem cells to create organoids that can be used to predict the impact of drugs in the whole organism. 

Joshua Pierce, Ph.D., obtained his B.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh and completed postdoctoral studies at Scripps Research Institute. His undergraduate and graduate research experiences provided an appreciation of the important role molecules can play in medicinal chemistry and drug discovery. In 2012, Dr. Pierce joined the Department of Chemistry at NC State and has been focused on addressing problems at the chemistry/biology interface. In addition to developing his research program, he is co-director of the Comparative Medicine Institute, and he recently became director of the Integrative Sciences Initiative. In 2018 Dr. Pierce founded Synoxa Sciences, Inc. to pursue the commercialization of antibiotics. 

Using Stem Mini-Organs to Find New Cures (Jorge Piedrahita and Joshua Pierce)

This video was originally produced for an audience of entering first-year and transfer students at NC State University as a part of an interdisciplinary experience. It is available for noncommercial reuse under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial 4.0 License,



  1. Interested in getting involved? Consider the Summer Interdisciplinary Research Initiative, which develops future research leaders in the biomedical sciences.

  2. Learn about the new Integrative Sciences Initiative and Building coming to NC State. 

  3. Learn about the Beckman Scholar's Program, a 15-month mentored research experience for exceptional undergraduate students in chemistry, biological sciences, or interdisciplinary combinations thereof.

  4. Listen to a podcast from 2020 by Dr. Pierce: Chemistry Drives Solutions to Our Planet's Largest Problems: COVID-19 and Beyond.

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