Data from Humane Society International reveal that every year more that 115 million animals are used in laboratories throughout the world, moreover the National Institute of Health (NIH) has noted that 90% of all drugs tested on animals fail in humans. Beyond the ethical concerns, the use of animal models results in an inefficient, long and expensive drug discovery process. 3D in vitro cell culture models are being adopted as platforms for cell culture and in the drug discovery process. However, these platforms continue to be associated with some limitations, being the more relevant: 1) contamination and ethical issues associated with materials of animal-origin, 2) handling difficulties and/or restrict mechanical properties, 3) low bioactivity of synthetic materials.
We propose human protein-based materials, as highly versatile platforms for 3D cell culture, microtissue development and disease models establishment. The proposed technology enables the culture of human cells in a physiologically relevant microenvironment that resembles human tissues in diversity and quantity of proteins and bioactive factors.
Sebastião van Uden
Bac3Gel start-up distributes innovative models of human mucus as tuneable 3D substrates to culture microorganisms. Bac3Gel technology may hold the key to finally overcome the “great plate count anomaly” and culture for the first time in the lab microorganisms known as the microbial “dark matter” - a huge number of microorganisms that can only be studied through sequencing techniques and do not grow in current culture methods.
In Bac3Gel, bacteria won't even know they are being cultured in the lab. Finally, the missing enabling technology is here to give a light-speed push in biological treatments and harness the full power of bacteria. Bac3Gel patented technology enables consistent studies to learn how to manipulate the human microbiome for treating cancer, Parkinson, Alzheimer, Chron's diseases or develop new microbiome-based biologics. In cosmetics, it can be exploited to create live cosmetics that fight aging, acne, etc. It will be also possible to generate super-efficient bio-enhanced substrates for vertical farms to help unburden the potential ecological impact of agriculture for accommodating a growing society.
Ana Clara Cristóvão
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a chronic neurodegenerative disorder affecting up to 10 million people worldwide. Despite the efforts to develop a cure for PD, current therapeutic approaches are only able to target the symptoms. As symptomatic therapies lose their effectiveness over time, patients end up with no therapeutic options. Therefore, prevent the disease progression after its diagnosis as become an important unmet medical need. Unlike commercialized alternative solutions that only target the symptoms, this project aims to develop a therapy to slow down the disease progression after patients are diagnosed. The project concept is based on a paradigm that targets an enzyme, responsible to contribute to the development of PD, using a new formulation of a specific inhibitor of that enzyme which shows an excellent dopaminergic neuroprotection in PD context.
The project is of economic interest for the pharmaceutical industry and will generate solutions unavailable to date to increase the offer of therapeutic options to PD patients reducing PD economic and social impact.
POCDOC - Point of Care, Diagnosis of Chagas
Chagas disease (CD), also known as American trypanosomiasis, is an infectious zoonotic pathology, caused by the protozoa Trypanosoma cruzi. Its transmission can occur in various ways, being the most common through a vector, mainly Triatominae insects.
The disease can provoke death and is predominant in poorer regions, such as Latin America, difficulting the diagnosis.
Therefore, it is proposed the creation of Point of care (PoC) tests, to substitute the conventional methods, by adapting a 3D printer, capable of amplifying and detecting the parasite’s nucleic acids, through real time recombinase polymerase amplification (RT-RPA), in a cheaper and faster way. The obtained fluorescent signal would be analyzed by a smartphone camera.
To increase the specificity of the technique, a cooperation with a laboratory responsible for the sequencing and primer synthesis in each endemic region is proposed, to determine the most common sequences of the various parasites’ genomes.
Raphael F. Canadas
The qPlateleX is a solution for precision medicine, which allows not only to proceed from the collection of patient's/donor’s cells to the concentration and/or maturation of cells with therapeutic potential. Currently, cell-based therapies are mostly not monitorized for quality and dose. Highly modular, it is designed to give real-time feedback of the applied therapy to doctors, offering an automated and personalized treatment at the bedside. Therefore, it will allow to provide monitoring on the multiple stages of cell-based therapies: collection, transport, and application dosing. It is basically a miniaturized R&D facility with smart analysis and automatic dose correction. The qPlateleX system is thus designed to be an all-in-one platform for cell therapy using real-time detection and big data to enable an improved cell therapy under safe conditions, connecting a broken value chain.
Surfaces providing a long-lasting protection against pathogens are the most efficient strategy for the evolution from punctual to smart disinfections, with an anticipated societal, scientific and economic significant impact. To date, there are no products with long-lasting effectiveness registered in the European Chemical Agency (ECHA), neither in the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Additionally, the current anti-microbial coating solutions are either mainly based on silver ions or on disinfectants releasing chlorine and quaternary ammonium compounds, which are toxic to the environment and to mammalian cells. It is thus of the utmost importance the development of truly alternatives to harsh industrial chemicals.
NaturALL aims to develop marine-derived nanocarriers loaded with forest-derived compounds, namely lignin-derivatives. The main goal is to develop a smart antipathogenic coating that is effective, long-lasting, sustainable, cost efficient, and safe for all.
Ana Cristina Afonso Oliveira
Honeybees, crucial pollinators worldwide, are susceptible to pathogens such as Paenibacillus larvae. This is a worldwide-distributed spore-forming Gram-positive bacterium that causes American Foulbrood disease (AFB). AFB destroy the bee brood and hampers the viability of the entire hive. Antibiotics are not an option for regulatory reasons. Instead, burning contaminated hives is mandatory causing serious environmental and economic losses. Spores (infectious form) spread easily across apiaries, making it a highly contagious disease, difficult to eradicate once established. Early diagnosis it therefore important for preventing its spread, since AFB clinical symptoms are only evident after the outbreak. This would enable to implement timely sanitary protocols with strict biosecurity rules (traditional detection methods are time-consuming). In this context, we aim at develop a rapid screening method for detect viable spores in an infected colony even if no disease is apparent to observers.
The cultivation of citrus fruits in Portugal represents an important source of income for the national economy. However, a loss of 1/3 of the production is regularly observed due to various factors throughout the distribution chain. This loss embodies a waste of natural resources consumed in fruit production and a lower income for producers. Therefore, there is the need for a centralized solution for the valorisation of the entire production. Freetilizer is an innovative technology, energy-efficient, fast, compact, that enables a zero waste approach to the citrus fruit production. With this technology, citrus fruits are transformed into concentrated juice, essential oils and animal feed. Freetilizer will have an impact in the economic, environmental and social areas, by creating the possibility to profit from the waste fraction, preventing up to 60 million t from being rejected and providing a natural and healthier alternative to synthetic additives in cosmetic and food industries.
At MindMimics we aim to exploit human brain organoids as a powerful alternative for drug screening and for the study of neuronal development diseases. We produce cerebral and brain tumor organoids in accordance with the customers' needs, either from european bank iPSCs or patient-derived iPSCs. Our vision is to make this valid human model available, to be used by pharmaceutical companies and R&D institutions to discover new targets and novel therapies for neurological diseases.
Deriving from a mammalian fetal source otherwise wasted in the range of millions of tons by the livestock industry, FETALIX developed and patented the first fetal-inspired biomaterial to treat degenerate disc disease (DDD) in humans and specific dog breeds (Dachshund, Basset, Beagles, etc) resolving chronic low back pain (cLBP) through a minimally invasive approach.
This material has unique pro-regenerative properties, being able to recapitulate a healthy microenvironment with high regenerative potential, typical of embryonic development.
It is processed into an off-the shelf product which eliminates the need for invasive spinal surgeries and reoperations, reducing intervention time by 90% and hospital stays by 70%. The final form of the asset creates high value product from prion-free animal waste driving circular economy.