Utrecht joins The Institute for human Organ and Disease Model Technologies
Advanced disease models are at the heart of Life Sciences research in Utrecht. Technologies, such as organ-on-chip and organoid models, have revolutionized the study of biological systems and are true game changers for interdisciplinary research. From fundamental to clinical research, from molecule to man: the ability to study organ systems in vivo has fostered collaborations across the board. Utrecht Science Park boasts the largest concentration of life sciences research anywhere in Europe, with Utrecht Life Sciences acting as a focal point for interdisciplinary collaboration. Organized within the Life Sciences strategic theme, interdisciplinary research into advanced in vitro models and organoids have taken center stage in Utrecht in recent years. At the national level this research is focused at The Institute for human Organ and Disease Model Technologies (hDMT). Utrecht University has joined this institute in January 2021.
Roos Masereeuw, scientific director of the Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences and lead of the Utrecht Advanced In vitro Models hub recalls when organoid and organ-on-chip technologies were emerging: “It was clear from the start that these new technologies would have a radical impact on life sciences research, so it made sense to organize organ-on-chip research at a higher level” she says. “In Utrecht we have set up long-lasting collaborations between faculties and institutes at the Utrecht Science Park under the umbrella of the Life Sciences strategic theme” she continues.
Organoids were developed in Utrecht and have led to many unique discoveries over the years, putting Utrecht firmly at the center of this rapidly developing field of research.
The strategic organization of life sciences research in Utrecht has many parallels with the organization at the national level, even down to the ambition to create a ‘laboratory without walls’, where boundaries between institutions dissolve in the interest of collaboration. “Organoids were developed in Utrecht and have led to many unique discoveries over the years, putting Utrecht firmly at the center of this rapidly developing field of research. Joining the national initiative is a natural step forward for us” says Masereeuw, who is proud to announce the new collaboration.
Utrecht University brings to the table an excellent research infrastructure in the area of human measurement models, with strong expertise in pharmaceutical sciences, regenerative medicine, organ-on-chip and a large network of stakeholders, including the world-leading Hubrecht institute of organoid technology, the Utrecht University Medical Center and the Princess Maxima Center for pediatric oncology. “In a recent NWO funding round for human measurement models , three out of seven projects awarded funding went to Utrecht, that is testament to the organization of research within Utrecht Life Sciences” says Masereeuw. Utrecht will bring these projects into the hDMT. Joining forces with other Dutch research clusters will benefit Utrecht in setting the national research agenda, forming research consortia and collaborating on key subjects.
The Netherlands is at the forefront in the area of advanced disease models, by joining forces we can only become stronger
Notable strengths of Utrecht research include advanced brain organoids and brain-on-chip models (Pasterkamp lab), as well as 3D-engineered human cardiomyocytes (Sluijter lab), articulating joint-on-chip models (Malda lab) and liver and bile duct-on-chip technology (Spee lab). Excellent positioning of these research labs within the larger context of Utrecht Life Sciences has led to a number of spin-outs such as ‘guts on a chip’ by Paul Jochems and the ‘organoid bioreactor’ by Bart Spee. Organized within interdisciplinary research hubs such as the Utrecht Platform for Organoid Technology (UPORT) and the Utrecht Advanced In vitro Models (UAIM) hubs, Utrecht adds further value to the national research landscape. The recent addition of an EU branch to the hDMT extends the influence even further towards the European level. “We are at the forefront of exciting developments. The Netherlands is at the forefront in the area of advanced disease models, by joining forces we can only become stronger” concludes Masereeuw, underscoring the advantages of collaboration.