Nanomedicine is about the application of nanotechnology in molecular biology and medicine. The scientific and technological developments are such that the detection and treatment of diseases and hereditary conditions at a cellular level is coming within reach. Biomolecular and (in)organic systems with new characteristics can be used for the imaging of a cell for example, or for the very specific local delivery of medication. The greatest opportunity lies in the development of new tools, materials and technologies which are already able to identify and characterise aberrations at an early stage. In the middle long term the molecular machines and intelligent, nanotechnology based tools will be introduced in the medical arsenal. This way doctors are given potential areas of application to treat illnesses and symptoms more effectively.
The following programmes fall under this theme:
3A - Nanoscale biomolecular interactions in disease - Prof. dr. V. Subramaniam (UT)
3B - Nanofluidics for lab-on-a-chip - Prof. dr. ir. A. van den Berg (UT)
3C - Molecular imaging - Prof. dr. K. Nicolaij (TU/e)
3D - Drug delivery - Prof. dr. G. Storm (UU)
3E - Integrated Microsystems for Biosensing - Prof. dr. H. Zuilhof (WUR)
3A Nanoscale biomolecular interactions in disease
The goal of this program is to use the nanotechnology toolbox to unravel molecular mechanisms in disease, a key goal of the HTS&M Strategic Research Agenda for Nanomedicine. Program clusters focus on cancer and neurodegenerative diseases and cancer. The projects span the range from understanding fundamental biomolecular conformational changes in disease to understanding DNA rearrangements in cancer using sophisticated nanotechnology-based approaches.The primary goal of all projects is to understand molecular mechanisms underlying disease processes. The age-related neurodegenerative conditions are a rapidly growing class of diseases prevalent in an increasingly aging population. Cancer is one of the great killers of our time. The societal relevance of this theme and program is indisputable, and results will have impact on clinical practice, diagnostics (Philips, Dannalab), and drug discovery and development (Vertex).Links have been established between individual projects in the clusters to exploit complementarities and synergies in approaches. Clinical relevance is highlighted by active participation of medical researchers in the program (Hubrecht Laboratory, Erasmus Medical Center), and by relevant collaborations in individual projects. Scientific excellence is assured by the involvement of internationally recognized principal investigators, who have demonstrated success (Spinoza, VICI, ERC, and other awards, impeccable publication records).
3B Nanofluidics for lab-on-a-chip
In this program new nanofluidic methods, technologies and Lab-on-Chip systems for medical diagnostics will be investigated and developed. The program consists three clusters: one cluster focused at cell experimentation, sorting, detection and analysis (“Cells”) and two clusters focusing at nanofluidics-based biomolecule detection and nanofluidics-based sample preparation (“Nanosensing”) and nanofluidics-based separation and nanosample and nanoparticles manipulation(“Nanofluidics”). In the “Cells” cluster both fundamental studies on individual cells as well as sorting and detection of (circulating) nanoparticles in blood will be investigated. This work has relevance for antibiotic resistance, development of new drugs for immune diseases and (early) detection of cancer and ischemia. In the “Nanos ensing and sample preparation” cluster focus will be put on new ultrasensitive optical detection techniques for early diagnosis of diseases such as Parkinson and Alzheimer. Furthermore, sample preparation and target extraction techniques will be investigated which are essential to transfer relevant targets from the milliliter samples into less than nl analysis volumes. In the “Nanofluidics” cluster the manipulation and valving of ultrasmall sample volumes and micro- and nanoparticles using ultrasonic, electrical and magnetic techniques is investigated. In addition, new nanofluidics separation techniques will be developed for fast analysis of proteins and DNA. In all three clusters, both top-quality researchers (Spinoza, Stevin, Vici laureates), large companies (Philips) and SME’s (Lionix, Micronit, Pamgene, etc.) are involved. For clinical expertise there is collaboration with NKI, LACDR, and MST. The outcome of the program will be a mix of outstanding research, new nanotechnology-based methods for fast and early diagnosis of diseases such as cancer, ischemia, Parkinson etc., and valorization of such techniques by participating companies or newly formed spin-off’s.
3C Molecular imaging
The Molecular Imaging program aims to develop novel nanostructures that can be used for the detection of molecular markers, which play a key role in disease processes, and to explore the utility of these novel formulations for studies in biological systems that are of medical interest. Several of the new nanomaterials will also be examined for their utility in therapeutic applications. Nanoparticles have many virtues for these kinds of biomedical applications. However, a range of challenges needs to be addressed in order to take full benefit of the potentials of nano‐based imaging in health care. Several of these major challenges will be tackled, in a coherent research program. The consortium that has been brought together consists of several leading Dutch academic groups in the field of molecular imaging, the university medical centers of Rotterdam (EMC) and Leiden (LUMC) that pursue clinical translation of this technology, as well a large company (Philips) and several SME’s (Nanomi, Lionix, SyMO‐Chem) that are active in this field.
3D Drug delivery
To drive the nanomedicine field forward to yield pharmaceutical products profitable for society, the fullest consideration should be given to the greater involvement of industrial, translational, and clinical scientists in current nanomedicinal research. This program is at the forefront of national pharmaceutical nanomedicine research, and will undoubtedly contribute to intensified structural collaboration between academia, industry, and clinic. Nanomedicines will be developed with broad applicability to disease treatment, as exemplified by the choice for projects studying the applicability of nanomedicines for the treatment of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetic nephropathy, end-stage renal disease, cardiovascular disease, sclerotic diseases, and tuberculosis. The programme is innovative, multidisciplinary with clear potential to deliver nanomedicines to the clinic and the market, as reflected by the large involvement of industry (mainly by SME’s), clinical and translational scientists, and clinical proof-of-concept studies.
3E Integrated Microsystems for Biosensing
This program focuses on the development of microsystems-based devices for biosensing. An integrated approach will be followed, creating appropriately functionalized hardware via advanced microsystems technology, biofunctionalization of surfaces and development of specific diagnostic tools based on modern microbiological and biomedical insights.
Cluster 1 aims at the detection of biomarkers that are characteristic for inflammatory diseases. The rationale behind this is that airway infections are the most prevalent class of infections in the Netherlands. Faster and more specific and more sensitive detection will assist adequate and early diagnosis of inflammatory diseases, which will greatly benefit the patient and reduce overall impact and costs of these diseases. The R&D program will allow the electrical detection of individual biomarker molecules, based on the specific biomarker ~ receptor/antibody interaction.
Cluster 2 aims at the development of microsystems-based lab-on-a-chip systems for the improved (more sensitive and faster) detection of microbial pathogens. lt will focus on pathogens present in sputum, breath, serum and urine from patients with pulmonary diseases, such as tuberculosis and pneumonia. With the devices under development patients can be screened for pathogens in a direct way, providing results within an hour, while this currently takes up to many days.