“Through collaborations between knowledge institutes and technology companies, we can make huge leaps forward in regenerative medicine using electrospinning technology.”
Jan van Helvoirt

“The Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) has been using our equipment for about 8 years now”, says Jan van Helvoirt, one of the founders of IME Technology. Van Helvoirt is an old acquaintance of the TU/e. He received his PhD degree in Measurement and Control from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the TU/e. “I founded IME Technologies together with my colleague Ramon Solberg in 2008. We started as a valorization company of theMechanical Engineering Department at the TU/e. In parallel to services and consultancy for a wide range of projects in Mechanical Engineering, IME Technologies started developing electrospinning equipment.” In 2012, van Helvoirt and his colleagues bought IME Technologies from the TU/e and became an independent company specializing in electrospinning technology. Since the privatization of IME Technologies, the company has grown successfully and currently sells a wide range of electrospinning equipment on the international market, mainly for research purposes. 

​“In recent years, we realized that there are large opportunities for electrospinning technologies in biomedical applications, specifically in regenerative medicine” says van Helvoirt. Regenerative medicine stimulates the body’s own repair mechanisms to heal damaged tissue. An example of regenerative medicine is tissue engineering, which focusses on using cells for tissue repair. Van Helvoirt further explains: “Electrospinning uses electrical force to draw charged threads of polymer solutions onto a surface. The electrospun fiber mesh is very suitable as a scaffold for cells to infiltrate and grow in, since the fibers are extremely thin and the mesh is highly porous, much like the extracellular matrix of the body. Currently, we are further advancing our electrospinning equipment for medical purposes.”

“I hope that one day biomedical products will be commercially available, made with technology, services and equipment of IME, that will contribute to the well-being of patients” – Jan van Helvoirt

Carlijn Bouten is professor of Cell-Matrix Interactions for Cardiovascular Regeneration at the Department of Biomedical Engineering, TU/e. “I want to understand how cells interact with their native extracellular environment - or a synthetic extracellular environment - in order to design cellular ‘niches’ or scaffolds for regenerative strategies. My research concentrates on the cardiovascular system, were cells and tissues are continuously loaded and in contact with blood. Hence, my research is performed at the crossroads of cardiovascular biology, mechanobiology, biomaterials, and tissue engineering.”

“My dream is to regenerate the human body from within: by using the intrinsic regenerative capacity of the body. New generations of biomaterials will contribute to this by providing (temporary) environments within the body that will recruit cells, for instance from the blood, and guide new tissue formation at those locations were new tissue is needed.” – Carlijn Bouten

Only recently, IME Technologies has started a more profound research collaboration with the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the TU/e. “There are very little electrospun biomedical applications commercially available. By collaborations between knowledge institutes and technology companies, we can make huge leaps forward in regenerative medicine using electrospinning technology” says van Helvoirt. Bouten explains what is needed to be successful in developing new biomedical applications: “A new application should definitely outrange existing applications, if any are available. It must be simple, cost-effective, and contribute to sustainable healthcare. It should also be easy to use and suitable for normal daily life or ongoing healthcare practice. For a clinician, a new application should fit right into his or her daily clinical practice: just like a Plug-and-Play tool.” With this research collaboration, the Department of Biomedical Engineering has access to some of the latest features in electrospinning technology. And van Helvoirt is confident that by working together, IME Technologies can advance their technology and equipment to the standards that are required for the production of these biomedical implants. Van Helvoirt adds “In addition, IME Technologies is staying up to date with recent scientific findings, which will help us to consult our customers in developing specific applications that will make a difference in patients’ lives”.

Electrospun heart valve (courtesy: Marc Simonet, currently employed by IME)Electronmicroscopy image of an electrospun fiber mesh  (© Chemelot InSciTe)

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Research collaborations between knowledge institutes and tech companies: the next step in regenerative medicine

Chemelot InSciTe