Pilot factory brings healing of chronic diseases a step closer

RegMed XB awarded 56 million euros from National Growth Fund

RegMed XB logo's

Today, the Dutch cabinet decided to fully fund the National Growth Fund application of RegMed XB. A maximum of 56 million euros will be available for setting up a pilot plant for regenerative medicine. In doing so, the cabinet is following the weighty advice of the assessment committee of the National Growth Fund. The funding will be used for the premium construction, furnishing and staffing of this pilot factory. RegMed XB stands for Regenerative Medicine Crossing Borders. It is a collaboration of research institutions, governments, provinces, health funds and industrial partners in the Netherlands and Flanders to arrive at therapies for chronic diseases, based on stem cells, mini-organs, tissues and smart (bio)materials.

Regenerative medicine aims to restore or even completely replace the function of failing tissues or organs. As a result, lifelong treatment of symptoms is no longer necessary. “We are very happy with this investment”, says Marianne van der Steen, director New Business Development RegMed XB. “This allows us to build an infrastructure for the development of regenerative therapies that can really help patients in the future. In this way, we are building a new industry where we can become a leader in the world. We will be an attractive location for companies from abroad, we will be able to build start-ups and scale-ups, and we will increase our competitive strength. And it creates jobs!”

Collaboration in pilot factory

The development of regenerative technologies is complex because of the use of living materials, such as cells and tissues, and involves high quality requirements. As a result, today it is still very labor-intensive and not automated. The pilot factory makes it possible to produce various materials (biomaterials, stem cells, micro tissues, macro tissues) on a larger scale.

The new facilities in the four participating regions (Eindhoven, Leiden, Maastricht, Utrecht) together form the pilot factory. They cover the entire chain of development and small-scale production of biomaterials, stem cells, micro- and macro tissues for personalized applications.

Marianne van der Steen: “In general, Leiden works, amongst others, on the development and production of stem cells: the basis of regenerative medicine. Eindhoven is developing new biomaterials to which stem cells can be added to help the body repair damaged functions. Utrecht is strong in integrating materials and cells through biofabrication. Finally, Maastricht focuses on the assembly of micro-tissues to macro-tissues. Anyone can use the pilot factory, such as researchers, start-ups and scale-ups. This pilot factory for regenerative solutions, in which all parties work together intensively, is unique in the world and of great value.”

Helping more patients

Regenerative therapies are very complex and are often tailor-made for each patient. This precision work is time-consuming and expensive, which still hampers wide application at the moment. With the investment from the National Growth Fund, the production process is improved and the development of the therapies is accelerated.

“Thanks to the grant from the National Growth Fund, we can help larger numbers of patients in the future and save costs”, says Tom Oostrom, director of the Dutch Kidney Foundation. “This offers millions of people worldwide with chronic diseases the prospect of recovery. Healthcare currently focuses mainly on treating symptoms, but RegMed XB focuses on curing diseases such as type 1 diabetes, kidney failure, osteoarthritis and heart failure. This awarding brings that final goal a big step closer.”

Greater innovation power

The investment in a pilot factory does not only contribute to healthcare. It is also a means to increase the innovative power of the Netherlands. The Netherlands is already one of the forerunners in regenerative medicine. The pilot factory provides an important boost in this emerging industry. Thanks to the support of the National Growth Fund and the investment of provinces, private parties and knowledge institutions, an ecosystem is created in which parties work closely together and which brings us a step closer to the cure of chronic diseases.

Utrecht research cluster

More than 12 million of the pledged amount will go to Utrecht. With this support, an Innovation Center for Advanced Therapies (ICAT) will be established. This center will bring together all relevant expertise and infrastructure for the development of regenerative treatments and disease models using biofabrication and 3d bioprinting. Personalized therapies and clinical studies are being developed based on immune cell, stem cell and organoid technology, in which Utrecht is a forerunner. The Utrecht research cluster consists of UMC Utrecht, Utrecht University (Faculty of Science and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine), the Princess Máxima Center and the Hubrecht Institute, and it forms a solid basis for the reproducible development of regenerative therapies and to accelerate bench-to-bedside transition.