€1,3M funding to CONNECT the Blood-Brain Barrier to Cerebral Organoids


The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. Today, it remains a challenge to effectively treat patients suffering from a brain disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or stroke. A brain disorder has a huge impact on patients, their caretakers, and society but effective drugs remain an unmet clinical need. This is partly because such drugs need to cross the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB), which protects the brain from unwanted compounds also hampering the delivery of therapeutics into the brain. Available animal models do not fully reflect disease conditions as seen in patients, making drug discovery a challenge and creating a need for models that predict all aspects of the route and effects of a drug upon administration. Furthermore, the search for effective drugs is hampered by the lack of predictive validity of mouse models for human patients. So, there is an urgent need for novel model systems that mimic human brain complexity to test delivery and efficacy of potential compounds to cure brain diseases. To enable the development of such BBB model, prof. dr. Elly Hol (UMC Utrecht Brain Center) and prof. dr. Elga de Vries (Amsterdam UMC) formed a multidisciplinary public-private CONNECT consortium which received a grant (18957) from the Dutch NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences (AES), the Association of Collaborating Health Foundations (SGF), ZonMw and Top Sector Life Sciences & Health (LSH; Health~Holland). Under the grant, PimBio will collaborate with UMC Utrecht Brain Center, Amsterdam UMC, Hersenstichting, Proefdiervrij, Danone Nutricia Research, BG.legal, InnoSer Nederland BV and Eyesiu Medicines BV. We will differentiate human pluripotent stem cells into a functional BBB to CONNECT this with mini-brains taking the first steps in such model development. PimBio will develop a novel microfluidic device for this unique approach to build such a complex 3D BBB model mimicking all aspects of the human brain to enable testing and selection of effective compounds for currently incurable neurological diseases. This innovative approach will lead to a human measurement model that is closer to the patient than the current animal and 2D cell models.