Every year millions of laboratory animals are used for biomedical research and drug testing. However, 90% of these drugs are unsuitable for humans due to the fundamental biological differences between humans and animals. In an ideal world, drugs would be tested on living human organs, outside the human body. The ENLIGHT project wants to make this radical idea a reality by 3D-printing fully functional organs. Last summer, Evers + Manders guided the ENLIGHT-consortium to a successful application within the FET (Future & Emerging Technologies) Open Programme of Horizon 2020, resulting in a € 3.6 million grant.
The unique ENLIGHT-technology
3D-printed organs do not yet function like those in the human body because the tissue does not consist of the right cells, nor are they in the right place. ENLIGHT wants to achieve this by controlling the position of cell types during the printing process. This involves the bioprinter giving off light patterns to the stem cells, with very high spatial accuracy. By printing model organs with such precision, the idea is that they will also fully function as human organs. During the ENLIGHT-project the technology is tested by printing a living model of the pancreas, but in principle living models of all types of tissues can be made. This will allow for great advances in the area of drug development, as well as in personalised medicine and organ transplantation.
The consortium that develops the ground-breaking ENLIGHT-technology is multidisciplinary and consists of eight European partners: main applicant UMC Utrecht, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne and ETH Zürich (Switzerland), The University of Naples Federico II (Italy), AstraZeneca (Sweden), Rousselot (Belgium), Readily 3D (Switzerland) and Fondazione Giannino Bassetti (Italy). In the project different partners focus on different parts of the printing process, including: engineering stem cells needed for the printing process, researching printing materials suitable for living cells, and developing a unique volumetric 3D bioprinter.
Researchers from Multiple Disciplines
The challenge for the Evers + Manders consultants lay in working with researchers from multiple disciplines, and guiding the proposal to fit the requirements of the funding call. There was a strong focus on open communication and weekly digital meetings with all consortium partners. This way the innovativeness and societal importance of ENLIGHT could be explained and emphasized in all parts of the application, in close cooperation with the project coordinator (UMCU).
Are you also involved with research and innovation into emerging technologies? Within the new Horizon Europe programme (2021-2027) there are also plenty of grant opportunities for ambitious and pioneering research projects, especially within Pillar 2 – Global Challenges and European Industrial Competitiveness. Of course, there are also opportunities in the Netherlands, and we would be happy to help you find funding opportunities and to works towards submitting a successful application.
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