Research consortium can make the development of medicines faster, cheaper and safer
Enschede, Netherlands, 19-5-2015 — /EuropaWire/ — Nine research institutes and industrial partners today announced their intention to join forces in the field of organ-on-chip technology. The establishment of the hDMT (Institute for human Organ and Disease Model technology) can elevate the Netherlands to rank among the top in the world in this field of research. This is according to Albert van den Berg, scientific director of UT research institute MIRA and one of the initiators of the research consortium.
Organs on chips are small devices in which living cells of a specific organ are cultured. They mimic the functions, dynamics and structure of human organs. You can, for example, use the devices to test new medicines and to investigate various diseases. Due to the long testing phase, it currently takes an average of twelve years to launch a new medicine on the market. With the organs on chips, you can make this process faster, cheaper and safer.
According to Albert van den Berg, a lot of expertise is available in this field within the Netherlands, but this expertise is fragmented. “And within this multidisciplinary field of study, a single discipline is not enough. Therefore, within the hDMT we bring knowledge and people together in a consortium. This includes cell biology, genetics and microfabrication technology.”
Van den Berg believes that the hDMT can elevate the Netherlands to rank among the top in the world in the field of organ-on-chip technology. Worldwide, Harvard’s Wyss Institute is currently the main player where this technology is concerned. “The Netherlands can compete with the expertise that exists in and around this institute.”
Within Stichting hDMT, nine partners (University of Twente, TU Delft, TU Eindhoven, Hubrecht Institute, Galapagos, Leiden University, Leiden University Medical Center, Genmab and Erasmus MC) share technology, knowledge and facilities with one another. Initially, the Stichting is focusing on the research lines: heart-, cancer- and blood vessels-on-chips. But, according to Albert van den Berg, this is just the beginning. “I think that the consortium can eventually lead to between ten and twenty organs on a chip. The UT was initially asked to join the consortium because of our expertise in the field of nanofluidics and sensing technology, but an inventory taught me that we at the UT already have many more research lines that fit in well with the consortium.”
As examples, Van den Berg cites research by Dimitrios Stamatialis into artificial kidneys, the research by Marcel Karperien into cartilage repair and the research by André Poot into lungs on a chip. “But there are many more groups at the UT whose research is closely connected.”
DOORS TO THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY
The cooperation between the partners offers benefits to all parties. The consortium works together pre-competitively, making it possible to create a better focus on the research within the Netherlands. In addition, the associated partners can make use of one another’s facilities and expertise. “The UT thus acquires, for example, a lot of knowledge in the field of cell biology”, says Van den Berg. He believes that another important advantage for the UT is that the consortium can further open the doors to the pharmaceutical industry. “The establishment of the hDMT creates one clear contact for the pharmacists; they now no longer have to sit at the table with just one entity. Because we do not have a university hospital in Twente, access to the major world players in the pharmaceutical industry is still limited. The hDMT can change this. In addition, it further strengthens the collaboration between UT research institutes MESA+ and MIRA.”
Joost Bruysters, Advisor/editor External Communications, tel +316-10488228