Who are we?
The TargetCaRe consortium consists of world-leading scientists from 14 institutions in 5 countries. All scientists are renown experts in their field of research, such as stem cell biology, biomaterial technology, in vivo imaging, nanomedicine and mass spectrometry imaging.
Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam (coördinator)
Prof. dr. Gerjo van Osch, Departments Orthopaedics & Otorhinolaryngology – Connective Tissue Cells and Repair Group
Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam is an internationally recognized center for high-quality and compassionate patient care, highly valued knowledge transfer and high-quality knowledge development. The mission of Erasmus MC is to promote a healthy population and excellence in healthcare through research and education. Erasmus MC is among the top ten of best medical institutions in Europe and among the top 30 research institutions worldwide. Each year, over 200 PhD theses are defended and >10,000 scientific articles are published in peer-reviewed journals.
The connective tissue, cells and repair group consists of about 15 people at the departments of Orthopaedics and Otorhinolaryngology. The central research question of the group is “What drives cells to degenerate or regenerate connective tissues?”. By conducting translational research, the group aims to prevent cartilage damage and to improve cartilage repair.
Group leader prof. dr. Gerjo van Osch and dr. Yvonne Bastiaansen-Jenniskens will supervise the two TargetCaRe ESRs appointed at Erasmus MC. Dr. Marloes de Vries-van Melle is the TargetCaRe project manager.
Within TargetCaRe, the two ESRs appointed at Erasmus MC will study the effect of nanocarriers containing therapeutic molecules on both joint inflammation and damaged cartilage. To achieve this, methods will be developed to specifically deliver nanocarriers to either inflamed tissue or damaged cartilage. Subsequently the effectivity of the therapeutic molecules in the nanocarriers on the respective tissues will be studied using dedicated models.
University Medical Centre Utrecht
Dr. Laura Creemers, Orthopaedics
With over a 1,000 beds and more than 10,000 employees, the University Medical Center Utrecht is one of the largest academic centers in the Netherlands. Patient care and biomedical research are closely linked, which creates an environment where scientific advancements quickly move from bench to bedside. The research at the Department of Orthopaedics, is characterised by a so-called “dual translational approach”, where clinical problems are translated towards basic research questions and vice versa. Research ranging from in in vitro and in vivo models for the clinical translation of cartilage and bone regenerative approaches, to the coordination and execution of clinical trials, the group has recently been ranked in the top-10 of orthopedic departments in Europe in terms of scientific output.
The resarch line lead by dr. Laura Creemers focuses on intervertebral disc (IVD) and cartilage degeneration and the application of local biomaterial-based strategies to treat these conditions. The biomaterials used range from natural to synthetic and compounds encompassed cells, small molecules, growth factors and siRNA. Her group is familiar with a variety of test systems, including cell-based release assays, IVD and cartilage tissue explant culture, rodent and rabbit models and large animal models of cartilage and intervertebral disc disease, up to human clinical studies in cartilage regeneration in collaboration with the orthopedic surgeons.
Dr. Laura Creemers will supervise the ESR appointed at the UMC Utrecht and together with Prof. Cumhur Öner she will co-supervise one ESR appointed at the AO institute with dr Sibylle Grad and professor Mauro Alini. The ESR at the UMC Utrecht will work on setting up advanced and robust assays to measure bioactivity and long term release of the compounds and participate in setting up mass spectrometry imaging for visualisation of compound delivery in cartilage and intervertebral disc, and its connection to its biological activity. The ESR at the AO institute will visit the UMC Utrecht to apply the compound-delivery gels and carriers in an intervertebral disc degeneration model.
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology
Prof. dr. Marcelle Machluf, Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering – Laboratory of Cancer Drug Delivery & Cell-based Technologies
Since it first opened its doors in 1924 the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology has been Israel’s primary technological university and the largest center of applied research. It is ranked among the top ten science and technology research universities in the world, now more than ever with three recent Nobel Prize laureates in Chemistry (Distinguished Professors Avram Hershko and Aaron Ceichanover in 2004, and Distinguished Professor Dan Shechtman in 2011). The Technion is one of a handful of Universities worldwide housing multiple Nobel-laureates simultaneously.
The main campus, Technion City, is a 300-acre site located on Mount Carmel in Haifa that comprises 100 buildings and is frequented by thousands of people every day. There are 18 academic departments in engineering, natural sciences, medicine and architecture, as well as about 42 research centers, 11 research institutes and 10 centers of excellence. These serve the Technion staff, which includes over 620 faculty members, 460 Clinicians, Adjuncts and Instructors, 1,000 Technical and Administrative staff and 58 spin-off companies. At present there are approximately 9,300 undergraduate students, 2,800 M.Sc. students and 1000 Ph.D., M.D. and D.Sc. students – a total of about 13,100 students. To date, Technion has awarded around 100,000 degrees.
The Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering in the Technion is one of few in the world that combines the areas of biotechnology and food under one roof, offering a combined degree (biotechnology and food engineering) with specialization in one of the two areas, so that Faculty graduates can integrate both in the biotechnology industry (which is relatively young) and the food industry.
Our vision at The Lab for Cancer Drug Delivery & Cell Based Technologies is to harness biological and engineering knowledge and expertise to design novel medical solutions by means of drug-delivery, cell-based and cell-free therapies, and biomedical and tissue engineering. Our group intends to use a unique targeted delivery system, named Nano-Ghosts (NG) and derived from the cytoplasmatic membranes of mesenchymal stem cells, to selectively deliver various bioactives to support cartilage regeneration. The group consists of 11 post-docs, Ph.D, and M.Sc students and 4 research associates, and is headed by Prof. Marcelle Machluf whose works were cited almost 2,500 times. The lab head will supervise the ESRs appointed at the Technion and Dr. Tomer Bronshtein will be the project manager.
The first ESR appointed at the Technion, within the TargetCaRe framework, will investigate the possibility of using NGs to support cartilage regeneration. To achieve this, various therapeutics will be loaded into the NGs, and their ability to selectively target and ameliorate cartilage inflammation will be studied.
Imperial College London
Prof. dr. Molly Stevens, Biomedical Materials & Regenerative Medicine
Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 14,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality.
Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment – underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.
Since its foundation in 1907, Imperial’s contributions to society have included the discovery of penicillin, the development of holography and the foundations of fibre optics. This commitment to the application of research for the benefit of all continues today, with current focuses including interdisciplinary collaborations to improve global health, tackle climate change, develop sustainable sources of energy and address security challenges.
Prof. Molly Stevens’ Group at Imperial College London comprises an extremely multidisciplinary research programme focusing on designing and developing materials-based approaches for applications in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. The research group has been recognised by over 20 major awards, including the EU40 Prize for best material scientists in Europe from the Materials Research Society as well as the 2014 Research Group of the Year from the European Life Sciences Awards, amongst many others. Within TargetCaRe, two ESRs within the Stevens Group will investigate innovative nano- and microcarriers designed to deliver targeted therapeutics within osteoarthritic sites and injured cartilage tissues.
Ben Pierce is Research Coordinator for Prof Molly Stevens’ Group at Imperial College since 2014. Prior to this, he conducted his postdoctoral research within the Helmholtz Association in Berlin, Germany researching biomaterials. He received his PhD in 2008 in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill based on his research on polymer-based materials. He has co-authored more than 25 papers, whilst his manuscript on the design of gelatin-based scaffolds, published in Advanced Materials, was highlighted in Science in 2015. He holds a BSc in Chemistry from Centenary College of Louisiana.
University of Aberdeen
Prof. dr. Cosimo de Bari, Institute of Medical Sciences – Regenerative Medicine Group
Founded in 1495, the University of Aberdeen is Scotland’s third oldest and the UK’s fifth oldest university. The University has invested heavily in medical research and training. The Foresterhill campus is one of Europe’s major biomedical research centres, and is home to the Institute of Medical Sciences, designed to provide state-of-the-art facilities for medical researchers and their students, the Health Sciences Building with its Clinical Research Facility, and the Suttie Centre for Teaching and Learning in Healthcare, a £20m healthcare training facility that opened in 2009.
Professor Cosimo De Bari is a clinically active rheumatologist with expertise in arthritis and stem cell research for musculoskeletal repair. His Regenerative Medicine Group is based in the Institute of Medical Sciences and is part of the large Musculoskeletal Research Programme, a multidisciplinary team of scientists and clinicians seeking a better understanding of bone, cartilage and muscle biology and developing novel approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders.
Current research interests in the Regenerative Medicine Group include (i) the development of stem cell-based tissue engineering products for cartilage and bone repair; (ii) the study of the stem cell niches in the joint in health and diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis; (iii) the investigation of the developmental origins of mesenchymal stem cells.
Within TargetCarRe, the ESR appointed at Aberdeen will study the effects of nanocarriers containing therapeutic molecules on damaged articular cartilage in synovial joints. The mechanisms of action of the nanocarriers and the recruitment of mesenchymal stem cells, naturally present in the joint, will be investigated using cutting-edge models.
Prof. dr. Kenneth Howard, Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center – NanoPharmaceutical Lab
The Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center (iNANO) established in 2002 at the University of Aarhus, is involved in cross-disciplinary research in nanoscience, based on close collaboration between researchers in physics, chemistry, molecular biology, biology and medicine with active participation of 55 senior researchers, 66 junior researchers and 140 PhD students in fields that include nanomaterials and nanomedicine.
The NanoPharmaceutical Lab headed by Associate Professor Kenneth Howard works on the development of advanced drug delivery technology for therapeutic intervention of diseases with a focus on understanding biological barriers required for optimal design of nanoscale carriers. This includes polymer-based therapeutics and surface engineering of nanoparticles with stealth and targeting “nanoshells” and the application of advanced surface characterisation techniques, such as X-ray photon electron spectroscopy (XPS), to determine amount and arrangement at the outmost 10 nm surface that is a predominant factor in determining biological interactions. Biological effects are evaluated in a number of cell types and animal models using flow cytometry, confocal microscopy and live animal imaging.
A focus of the lab is the application of RNA interference therapeutics against molecular targets evaluated in disease models for rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. The lab has extensive collaboration with national and international industrial partners on projects ranging from design of RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutics to controlling receptor-mediated transport of nanocarriers.
The main contribution of iNANO in TargetCaRe will be to provide RNAi expertise that includes loading of RNAi-based therapeutics into nanocarriers and functional readout. In addition, nanocarrier design, surface engineering with coatings such as hyaluronic acid for tunable cell targeting, and bioimaging will be provided to the project.
Prof. dr. Ron Heeren, Maastricht Multimodal Molecular Imaging Institute M4I – Division of Imaging Mass Spectrometry
The Maastricht Multimodal Molecular Imaging institute M4I, embedded in the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences of Maastricht University, is the largest molecular imaging centre in Europe. The Division of Imaging Mass Spectrometry, under supervision of university professor Ron Heeren, is one of the world leaders in high resolution molecular imaging of biological surfaces.
Dr. Berta Cillero Pastor is the clinical project coordinator of the group.
The division targets the development and application of state-of-the-art mass spectrometry based molecular imaging approaches for nanomedicine and biomedical research. Heeren’s research group is among others well-known for the application of Mass Spectrometry Imaging to molecular histology. The main research aim for the coming years is to develop and apply mass spectrometry as a diagnostic and prognostic tool for personalized medicine in oncology, neurology, cardiovascular medicine and rheumatology. These collaborative projects ensure a strong embedding of our research in the society.
Within TargetCaRe, the ESR appointed at M4I, will study the distribution of delivered nanocarriers and hydrogels on animal and cell models of osteoarthritis and intervertebral disc degeneration by using mass spectrometry imaging. In this context, the development of protocols to image the release of compounds such as antibodies or hyaluronic acid at high spatial resolution is clue to select the best delivery method for tissue regeneration. The study of the biological response at the protein and small molecule level will be also evaluated on damaged cartilage and inflamed synovium.
Dr. Alan Chan, R&D
Prof. dr Bruce Caterson, School of Biosciences
AO Research Institute Davos
Prof. dr. Mauro Alini, Musculoskeletal Regeneration
The AO Foundation is a medically guided non-profit organization specialized in the treatment of trauma and disorders of the musculoskeletal system, with a global network of more than 10’000 orthopaedic surgeons.
It is the world’s leading education and research organization for trauma and musculoskeletal treatment. The mission of AO Research Institute Davos (ARI) is excellence in applied preclinical Research and Development and translation of this knowledge to achieve more effective patient care.
Within the ARI, the Musculoskeletal Regeneration Program has established research activities in the field of bone, cartilage, and intervertebral disc regeneration, with a major focus on cell therapy and tissue engineering. Extended research experience with specific bioreactor system for cartilage and disc will considerably contribute to the ex vivo studies of TargetCaRe.The Head of the Program, Prof. Dr. Mauro Alini, and the Group Leader Dr. Sibylle Grad will supervise two TargetCaRe ESRs; one ESR is registered at Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam and focusses on cartilage repair studies; while the second ESR is registered at UMC Utrecht and mainly performs the intervertebral disc regeneration experiments of the project.
The ESRs working at the ARI will study the regenerative and anti-inflammatory effects of nanocarriers containing therapeutic molecules in whole organ culture models. Osteochondral explants will be used in a cartilage bioreactor that simulates the load and motion of an articulating joint. For intervertebral disc regeneration studies, an organ culture bioreactor will be used, where whole bovine caudal discs can be cultured under relevant loading conditions for several weeks.
Dr. Avner Yayon, R&D
Hans Roeland Poolman, CEO
Omics2Image (Omx2I) envisions to drastically change the use of Imaging Mass Spectrometry in Healthcare, by allowing Life Scientists and Physicians to move their focus from better treatments to accurate predictions and effective monitoring.
Omx2I is a biotechnology startup, founded in 2012. The company closely collaborates with its founding partners, the Dutch national research institutes AMOLF and Nikhef based in Amsterdam. Omx2I introduced a molecular camera, the IonPix camera, into the market for Imaging Mass Spectrometry, This high speed, high sensitivity pixelated detector can also be used in a wide range of applications, including spectral Xray imaging, neutron imaging and electron microscopy. The mission of the company is to keep developing next generation mass spectrometry detectors for a wide range of applications. This is done by our amazing team in collaboration with our partners worldwide and the team from Prof.dr. Ron Heeren, the co-director of the Maastricht Multimodal Molecular Imaging (M4i) Institute.
Dutch Arthritis Foundation
Nienke Klomp, Research & Innovation
The Dutch Arthritis Foundation (DAF) protects the interests of nearly 2 million people with a rheumatic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. We support them by giving information about the various diseases, giving advice on how to live with arthritis and by funding scientific research for better treatment and cure. We also represent the patients’ interest in our lobby for better care with health insurers and politics.
The research policy of DAF is aiming at actively bringing (international) researchers and funders together, to help bring forward translational research into arthritis. Within TargetCare, DAF takes care of the patient perspective. Two patient representatives will be selected to take part actively of the advisory board. Furthermore, DAF will present results from TargetCare in a large range of media: newspapers, websites and social media. Due to her large network both within researchers and patients, DAF can act as a matchmaker when necessary along the road of Targetcare.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Dr. Efrat Monsonego-Ornan, Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition