Our Bioengineering core comprises projects tackling a specific translational problem relevant to drug development. Expected outcomes are new tools, assays or instruments (not validated) enabling translation, as well proof of concept for drug development application.
The Microtechnologies group focuses on developing microengineering tools — including microfluidics, optics, and mechatronics — to culture and analyse biological systems ranging from single cells to organoids and tumour explants. In synergy with other IHB groups, these microengineered devices will help create in vitro models closer to in vivo conditions and thus better predicting drug efficacy and safety. In collaboration with other pRED groups, we aim to develop a suite of standalone microtechnologies that can be used in various translational applications or earlier in the drug discovery pipeline.
Despite breakthrough advances in generating physiologically relevant organoid models, challenges remain in implementing real-life applications in drug discovery and development. A major problem is that conventional organoid models consist of only a single tissue, usually the epithelium, and therefore lack tissue-tissue interactions that play a key role in the development, maturation and physiological function of an organ, as well as in disease. We are exploring novel approaches to increase tissue-tissue complexity in organoids, and we are also investigating intact patient-derived tissue explants as an experimental model system, particularly in the context of solid tumours. We anticipate that these next-generation multi-tissue systems will better mimic the biology of human organs and diseases.
Organoids hold great promise in modelling human development and diseases. Owing to missing cell types and compartments, they have yet to live up to their billing as mini-organs and significantly benefit translational research and patients.
In collaboration with IHB and Roche Pharmaceutical Research and Early Development (pRED) researchers, the Organoid Engineering group aims to increase the (patho)physiological likeness of organoids to healthy and diseased organs by combining insights from high-dimensional phenotyping with spatially and temporally controlled multicellular engineering.
Areas of focus include introducing tissue-specific stromal and immune compartments and engineering immune responses.