Chemelot InSciTe has recently successfully concluded the EU co-funded OPZuid project (Bio)medical Accelerator Matrix (BEAM-NL).
The project aimed to develop and validate a trialground to bring biomedical innovations to the market or patients more quickly and effectively.
Partners in this project were Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), DSM, Maastricht University (UM), Maastricht UMC+, Neuroplast, Fujifilm and Xilloc. The project was financially supported by OPZuid (M€ 1.6) and the Provincie Limburg (k€ 157). Now, the impact of the BEAM-NL program is undeniable: New therapies, new business and partnerships, certified biomedical R&D infrastructure and a next generation of biomedical professionals.
Looking back at the start in 2017, Filip Maes, the Biomedical project manager at Chemelot InSciTe, concludes that things went incredibly well with BEAM-NL.
‘This program has enabled us to develop tools that not only speed up the work process for researchers but also strengthen it qualitatively. The progress we made in our public-private translational research project is the ultimate proof of this. This is also why BEAM-NL has been very important for Medace, the start-up that commercializes the matrix.’
The Biomedical Accelerator Matrix
The core of the accelerator matrix lies in the modular design of a learning-work environment. By sharing necessary infrastructure like biomedical labs and equipment, knowhow and specific expertise in quality management and regulations, the probability of success is dramatically increased, and investments costs are reduced for all parties involved.
InSciTe created a trialground (‘proeftuin’) in its biomedical facility in Geleen to accommodate multiple R&D projects, while continuously looking to further optimize the workflow and available equipment. This working model proved attractive not only for the InSciTe research projects but also for start-ups, of which four of them soon joined InSciTe with the aim of accelerating their technical and business development using the matrix model.
In 2018, InSciTe received a crucial quality recognition for their way of working and was awarded the ISO 13485 certificate, the European quality standard in medical devices. In 2020, the InSciTe working model has been acknowledged as best European practice in the Interreg Medtech4 Europe program.
In addition to the BEAM-NL project, a total of 10 Biomedical projects have used and are still using the Biomedical facility. Over 600 upcoming talents in the biomedical sector have been trained in 43 specialized InSciTe courses.
Two illustrative example projects
With the partners, the accelerator matrix concept was further developed and used to accelerate two specific and promising medical developments.
The first medical development to prove the effectiveness of the matrix is a new and improved scoliosis treatment. In this new treatment, the correction of the deformed spine is performed with a patient specific construct . When successful this will drastically improve the clinical outcome of the treatment.
‘We’ve gone through all the test phases and expect to operate on the first adult patient in the second half of 2021,’ says Paul Willems, orthopedic surgeon at Maastricht UMC+. ‘That’s a huge milestone. For the first time in our hospital’s history we perform a ‘first in man’ trial and offer patients a product that we have developed ourselves, with the help of partners. We gained valuable insights into preparing and running first-in-man clinical trials. Within the project we also acquired a setup and expertise for in vitro testing of spine segment, this gave us valuable insights in the effectivity of the treatment before going to the patient, thereby increasing the chance of a successful treatment.
Stem cell viability
The second development route is a collaboration between Fujifilm Europe and Neuroplast. The aim was to develop injectable carrier material for stem cells to treat neurodegenerative disorders like paraplegia. During the project a Recombinant Collagen Peptide (RCP) hydrogel was developed, which provided valuable insights in RCP based therapies. RCP is obtained through a biotechnological process. Because it is artificial and therefore not derived from animals, it is very suitable for medical or pharmaceutical applications.
In-vitro cell experiments with so called Neuro-Cells from Neuroplast have shown promising results. After identification of the optimal hydrogel, improved cell retention could be tested in vivo.
The open innovation platform that InSciTe provided to all the partners working together in BEAM-NL has created a network for launching more multidisciplinary collaborations in sustainable health care. The working model itself proved to be very successful, and in 2019 the spin-off Medace was established to provide this kind of service and support to individual medical startups on a commercial basis.
‘All partners, TU/e, DSM, UM, Maastricht UMC+, Neuroplast, Fujifilm and Xilloc look back with a good feeling on all the great results we have achieved in recent years in cooperation with Stimulus. Thanks to our open innovation platform, this also offers opportunities for other interested companies to join. We are thrilled to see knowledge so rapidly increasing within the matrix’, says Filip Maes. ‘We can now complete a similar journey for the new WISE (wrist implants) project twice as fast. Our dedication to BEAM-NL is now paying off – it’s a huge motivation.’
*The work of BEAM-NL is performed under the framework of Chemelot InSciTe. The project is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund, the ministry of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands and the Province of Limburg in the context of the Operational Program South Netherlands (OPZuid).