PAST4FUTURE’s first on-site consortium meeting

On Friday 20 May, the consortium held its first in-person/partially remote user committee meeting at the Radboudumc, The Netherlands. In total 13 partners attended the meeting, in a great mix of scientists, biotech companies, funding agencies, and societal organizations. It was so nice seeing each other finally 18 months after the project kick-off.

In depts and frank discussions on project outcomes, project progress and user wishes came to the table and a lot of interaction fostered the scientific discussions on the first results generated in the project. Ideas for better outreach (social media engagements) of the project and new interactions with other projects (like the NWA-ORC and EU-networks) were also introduced.

Exciting first scientific publications are on their way, but still a lot of work is required for the making of new immortal cell lines and improved keratinocyte differentiation from iPSCs. However, the tools for characterizing them, like functionality vs. state-of-the-art omics-technologies (e.g. spatial single cell transcriptomics) are nearly all ready to go! So now we are pushing hard to get the cells ready for distribution and analyses. Exciting times to come!

Below a picture of the consortium:

From left to right. Bottom row: Abdoel El-Ghalbzouri (LUMC), Huiqing Jo Zhou (RU), Ellen van den Bogaard (RUMC), Sue Gibbs (Amsterdamumc/ACTA), Luca Meesters (RUMC). Second row: Boeke Boekema (ADBC), Hanna Niehues (RUMC), Camille LaBerthonierre (RU), Koen Dechering (TropIQ Health Services). On screen: Saskia Aan (Proefdiervrij), Lisette Krul (SGF), Christian Freund (LUMC), Elias Imahorn (CELLnTEC). (Carine van Schie, Dutch Burns Foundation, is not in the picture)

11 million euro funding for Dutch research consortium Next Generation Immunodermatology (NGID)

The Dutch Research Council (NWO) has, within the framework of Research along Routes by Consortia (NWA-ORC), awarded the research project Next Generation Immuno-Dermatology (NGID) with a prestigious grant of 11.7 MEuro. NGID is a nationwide, large-scale project to unravel novel biomarkers for six different skin diseases. These biomarkers will drive a high-tech, patient-centric approach in clinical practice.

Two members from the PAST4FUTURE consortium, Prof. Ellen van den Bogaard (RUMC) and Dr. Abdoel El-Ghalbzouri (LUMC) join forces and steer a full workpackage on translational skin disease models using the organotypic skin tissue platform at both institutes. Together with PAST4FUTURE partners, CELLnTEC and Proefdiervrij, Ellen and Abdoel will use the cell sources, tools and technologies generated in PAST4FUTURE to benefit NGID. Vice versa, PAST4FUTURE will profit from the patient material, data and extensive network in NGID. Together we can make a real change!

Read here for more information.

Unique Joining Forces for Better Research with Human Measurement Models

By linking health research as closely as possible to humans and thus making it more applicable and faster, more and more diseases can be prevented or cured in the long term. It is therefore vital to invest now in the development of “Human Measurement Models”, according to De Samenwerkende Gezondheidsfondsen.

De Samenwerkende Gezondheidsfondsen (SGF) have set up the research programme “Human Measurement Models” together with the Top Sector Life Sciences & Health (LSH; Health~Holland), NWO domain TTW and ZonMw. In this programme, public-private partnerships contribute to more effective human health research that is less dependent on laboratory animal research. In a first financing round, SGF, together with Health-Holland, will award 3.5 million euros in PPP allowance and ZonMw 1.1 million euros to seven public-private partnerships. In addition, there are co-financiers, such as Stichting Proefdiervrij, who contribute at project level. A unique combination of strengths that has never taken place before and should ensure innovations in the field of human-centered science.

Human measurement or research models take humans as a starting point and are based on human material, such as stem cells, tissue after surgery or “organs-on-a-chip”. But also test subjects and computer simulations, using human data, are forms of “human measurement models”. When new treatments are investigated in a human model, it is expected that the step towards effective application in practice can be taken more quickly. This also makes science less dependent on the use of laboratory animal models, which is in line with the Transition Laboratory Animal-Free Innovation (Transitie Proefdiervrije Innovatie).

“Until now, the laboratory animal model is still often the standard within health research and in some cases even required by law. Despite the movement towards other models, their application often lags behind due to the lack of suitable alternatives. We will now change this by stimulating public-private partnerships for the development of humane measurement models. In this way, we will be able to prevent or cure illnesses better in the long term, so that more people can live healthily for longer. That is our mission. ” Said Mark Monsma, director of De Samenwerkende Gezondheidsfondsen.

The programme consists of two funding rounds, making more than 9 million euros available in total. The second funding round entitled “Human measurement models 2.0: for health research into disease and prevention” closes on 3 November 2020 and is coordinated by NWO domain AES.

The following seven projects were awarded in the first subsidy round:

  1. Validation of Human Cancer Organoids for Drug Development and as Predictive Models for Drug Response. (consortium leader: Prof. Dr. Hans Clevers)
  2. Building a multi-tissue microfluidics system of metastatic potential – BIOMEP (consortium leader: Ir. Wytske M. van Weerden)
  3. Platform for Alternative Skin Tests for sustainable future science (PAST4FUTURE) (consortium leader: Dr. Ellen van den Bogaard)
  4. Towards osteoarthritis fingerprinting – combining imaging biomarkers and multi-organ-on-chip technology for improved in vitro models (consortium leader: Dr Marcel Karperien)
  5. Drug disposition On-a-Chip: a multi-organ-on-chip model tailored to mimic ADME / PK in vitro (consortium leader: Prof. Dr. Roos Masereeuw)
  6. Brain @ home: real-world clinical neurophysiological and neurobehavioral markers as novel human measurement models for personalised treatment in epilepsy and migraine (consortium leader: Dr. R.D. Thijs)
  7. Bio-Informatic Qualification of Multi-organ disease Models: Evolution Through in vitro and Computational Symbiosis (consortium leader: Dr. Bas van Balkom)

967K Euro grant to develop organoids enabling new research methods for skin disorders

Under the leadership of Ellen van den Bogaard and colleagues of theme Inflammatory diseases, a large consortium is setting up a platform in which materials and technologies will be developed to stimulate research with so-called skin organoids, small pieces of cultured skin. The goal of this is to research the effect of these organoids on the skin and skin diseases. Also drugs can be tested in these organoids. For this purpose the researchers receive a grant of 967K euro from Health Holland.

A well functioning skin plays a very important role in our health. Unfortunately, many people suffer from skin diseases. In the Netherlands alone there are more than 2 million patients with serious chronic inflammatory skin diseases, such as psoriasis and atopic eczema. People’s skin models offer many opportunities for research into skin function, skin diseases and drug testing. They are scientifically and ethically indispensable. However, the application of these skin models in fundamental science lags behind, because the standardized, commercially available skin models often turn out to be unsuitable for specific issues and research budgets are not sufficient for the large-scale use of these precious human measurement models.

PAST4FUTURE
That is why researchers from four Dutch experimental dermatology laboratories are setting up a new platform in this project: “Platform for alternative skin models for sustainable future science”, or PAST4FUTURE for short. The platform aims to generate general, versatile and sustainable materials and technologies and make them accessible to everyone. Robust protocols should lead to reproducible results that will be tested within the project in the four separate laboratories.

DNA research using CRISPR Cas9
Principal investigator Ellen van den Bogaard explains: “We are going to make universal cells from inexhaustible sources (stem cells and immortal cell lines) in which, with the help of the powerful CRISPR Cas9 technology, we can process the hereditary material and study its effects in the tissue itself. For this new technology, international researchers received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020.

Ellen van den Bogaard continues: “This very first nationwide collaboration of experts in experimental dermatology and the contribution of major industrial partners will enable us to make these technologies available more quickly to both academic science and industry. This will make us less dependent on patients and experimental animals”.

About PAST4FUTURE
The Platform for Alternative Skin Tests for sustainable Future science (PAST4FUTURE) is a consortium led by the Radboudumc. This project is carried out together with Huiqing (Jo) Zhou of the department for Molecular Developmental Biology (FNWI-RU) and external partners: VU University Medical Center, Leiden University Medical Center, Association of Cooperating Burns Centers in the Netherlands, CELLnTEC Advanced Cell Systems AG and TropIQ Health Sciences.