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Stimulating 3D Skeletal Muscle Microtissues in a Novel Perfusable Microphysiological System with Integrated Electrodes
$4+ Million Raised to Date with FORWARD.one Leading
SAN FRANCISCO, California and DELFT, Netherlands, March 4th, 2022 – Bi/ond, one of the world’s leading Organ-on-a-Chip technology firms, today announced that its commercial and clinical success working with two of Europe’s top 10 leading medical centers has led to a total of over $4 million in funding, including investment from the leading industrial venture firm FORWARD.one.
Bi/ond’s technology has already been deployed across Europe, including at Leiden University Medical Center, where clinicians are making heart tissues using Bi/ond’s microchips and Erasmus University Medical Center where researchers are using patients’ own breast cancer samples to guide therapy. The Bi/ond organ-on-chip platform combines 3-D microfluidic cell cultures with an integrated circuit (microchip) to simulate the biological activity, mechanics and physiological response of an entire organ or organ system.
Bi/ond is led by Cinzia Silvestri, PhD., a leader in nanomaterials and silicon microfabrication for biotechnology who has also been acknowledged for advancing diversity in a male-dominated sector.
“Balancing microelectronics with the delicate requirements of tissue and muscle development on a chip is the hardest part of developing Organ-on-a-Chip and that’s what we cracked early on,” said Dr. Silvestri, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer at Bi/ond. “This new investment has come not just because of the innovations that we developed in these areas, but also because of the clinical proof our partners demonstrated in the laboratories across Europe’s leading medical organizations. We thank FORWARD.one for leading the round and recognizing this.”
“Cinzia and her team have done an amazing job of creating innovations around Organ-on-a-Chip and getting the platform into the hands of clinicians so that they can deliver therapeutics to patients,” said Robin van Boxsel, Partner at FORWARD.one. “We are a strong believer that their technology will play a key role in improving future drug development and we are excited to be part of their journey.”
The Bi/ond platform enables the culturing of complex 3D tissues (organoids, ex vivo tissue, spheroids and microtissues) for applications in kidney research, oncology and cardiac simulation.
“We’re using Bi/ond for breast cancer therapy response in a more controlled way that enables us to use tissue slices for long-term research, something that has not been possible for us before,” said Dr. Dik Van Gent.
Bi/ond is one of the global leaders in Organ-on-a-Chip technologies.
Organ-on-a-Chip combines 3-D microfluidic cell cultures with a microchip to simulate the behavior, mechanics and physiological response of an entire organ or organ system. The expertise of Dr. Nikolas Gaio, Bi/ond Chief Technology Officer has enabled the company to deliver reproducible and scalable chips for high content biological assay, something that is critical for consistency and ongoing monitoring in clinical research.
The company has raised more than $4 million in funding, including a lead by the industrial venture firm FORWARD.one, which specializes in investing in game-changing high-tech innovations.
The biotech field just found an ally in Augmented Reality (AR), and two companies are looking for researchers to start a pilot.
Could you imagine a biologist developing and testing a new drug from home?
Emanuele Borasio, CEO and founder at weAR and Nikolas Gaio, co-founder at Bi/ond, have a clear vision for their ambitious project: enable biologists to process data, perform experiments and collaborate by using AR and Virtual Reality (VR).
The project is called ARinBIO, and it is as ambitious as realistic.
Emanuele Borasio (EB): Immersive technologies such as AR ad VR have been used since the ‘60, the problem was the lack of an appropriate hosting device. Now, everyone can acquire accurate devices like Oculus Quest™, and you can share virtual content with a large audience.
You can use immersive technology to fix problems inside devices, and by using AR glasses you can have a clear overview of the instruction manual while you are performing a procedure.
You can represent a lot of information in real-time by pointing your device, putting on glasses, and seeing how to fix a problem.
You can even enter a virtual reality room where you can collaborate and work on building up a piece of machine together.
With AR, researchers can see the information appearing next to advanced tools like Organ-on-Chips (OOC), check the user manual and upload data.
Nikolas Gaio (NG): I believe that AR and VR in biotech could enable a new way to visualize data and make decisions in the biological lab. Biologists will be able to inspect more data in parallel, and understand what is happening to some samples without going back and forth to the lab. The intermediate and manual steps required to perform an experiment are actually making the process more prone to error by delaying the biologists’ decision.
In many cases, biologists are taking hundreds of pictures and graphs hosted on a PC that is not in the lab. With AR they could enter the images gallery without moving. This new approach will minimize the time while increasing the accuracy.
We believe that one day those data could also enable us to predict results and visualize the prediction through the glasses or a tablet.
Streamlining every step in the biological labs could also get us a step closer to personalized medicine, which requires even more accurate data. Our aim is to help biologists to handle the growing amount of data and empower them to perform personalized testing with a high level of accuracy.
ARinBIO started from the needs of our customers, which are working on Organ-on-chip and in vitro models. Those researchers are looking for adding more complexity in their model by collecting data from sensors, while using a simple procedure to perform their tests.
Thanks to the experiences of our customers, we had the idea of using AR to enable complexity by using intuitive tools.
We approached weAR suggesting this project, and they were enthusiastic to collaborate with us. After that, we applied and received a European grant from the DIGIBCUBE (https://digibcube.eu) to support our activities.
We are looking for early adopters: biologists working with OOC technology willing to use this prototype to make their research more effective and their results more predictable.
Everyone following this description is welcome.
EB: At weAR, we have been already testing our technology with surgeons operating hands-free on a 3D model of a human body. The results are astonishing.
Indeed, the use of smart glasses will enable biologists to operate hands-free, far away from the lab, or even by working from home. Our aim is to speed up the development of personalized medicine with a tool that enables complexity with an intuitive user experience.
EB: AR is a shortcut to communicate better, faster and more efficiently. In the near future, I see a combined use of human factors and AI to solve critical issues while operating safely. Operating with AI requires more data for training the algorithms, so we’ll need to use AR in OOC for a while to collect the information and eventually enable AI in the lab to make better and more accurate suggestions.
NG: We could see a future where biologists won’t necessarily need to enter the lab. A virtual reality solution will enable biologists to control the lab from the office. This would cut the costs and the risks of performing experiments in the lab with viruses, and empower biologists to use more time to elaborate the results instead of performing the experiment.
The combination of OOC technology and AR will radically change the approach to drug testing and data management in the biotech field. Bi/ond and weAR are ready to launch the pilot and willing to collaborate with ambitious researchers to make the next step towards better, more accurate, and personalized medicine.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 824920.
Last November, we launched the #OOCtransition initiative to promote and accelerate the development of Organ-on-Chip models with the potential to reduce and replace animal testing.
Researchers from all over Europe submitted their abstracts. After an accurate selection, the Bi/ond team selected the winner: the Tedesco Laboratory at University College London & The Francis Crick Institute (London, UK).
We had the opportunity to interview Francesco Tedesco, and discuss with him the transition from animal-based models to organ-on-chip methods.
Your group is focused on skeletal muscle regeneration. Which are the current main challenges in the field?
We are interested in skeletal muscle diseases, especially in severe neuromuscular diseases of childhood, but the same tools we have developed over the last few years can also be translated for other conditions, such as muscle injuries, sarcopenia or cachexia.
The field is vast and there are a number of challenges, including the ones related to modeling these diseases. One of them is the lack of cells we can use to perform experiments. There are many limits connected to the use of biopsy-derived cells, such as the limited amount of material and the short life span of the cells. This is why we developed specific strategies based upon pluripotent stem cells. Pluripotent cells give us an unlimited source of cells that we could then differentiate into muscle. These cell cultures are patient-specific and give us the opportunity to develop in vitro models of human muscle disease with higher fidelity than what we used to do before. Indeed we have developed strategies to make a tridimensional patient-specific muscle in the lab, which we can use to model muscle diseases with high fidelity.
This is why we will combine our expertise in making a3D human skeletal muscle with Biond’s chip-based platforms, to develop a more complex system to model muscle structure, vascularization, delivering compounds, perfusion, and innervation.
You’re one of the lead researchers who established the London stem cell network, could you tell us more about this project?
The London stem cell network connects the main research institutes in London working on stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, including the Francis Crick Institute, UCL (University College London), King’s and Imperial Colleges and many more. The goal of the network is to connect scientists, share knowledge and present data at conferences and workshops.
How do you see the future of this field?
The OoC field is growing rapidly. There will be a significant reduction of animal-based research, although initially, we might still need to use a limited number of animal models on some occasions to validate those in vitro platforms. Overall, I think we will see more and more complex, quasi-vivo OoC platforms modelling human physiology and diseases.
How did you decide to transition to OOC method and what benefits do you experience?
There are a number of benefits from having a more reliable platform to model your disease of interest, and avoid relying on animal models. Besides ethical concerns, animal models also have some practical limitations, such as cost and the lack of accuracy in recapitulating some specific diseases. For instance, we work on a particular muscle disease that has a specific type of inheritance in humans, but in animals that genetic inheritance is completely different.
The goal of my group is to “humanize” muscle models as much as possible, and I believe that new technologies are getting ready to support us. This is why I am really excited to start this collaboration with BI/OND and I am looking forward to achieving great results together!
Delft, 8 October 2020 – BIOND Solutions (Bi/ond), a spin-off of Delft University of Technology, has developed a microchip that can nourish, stimulate and monitor tissues and cells. The company has just secured €250,000 of growth capital from early-stage investment fund UNIIQ. Bi/ond will use part of the investment to expand its already strong team with engineers to work on scaling up the highly promising technology. It will also invest in research and development and intellectual property activities. The investment was announced digitally by Bas Vollebregt, member of Delft city council.
Humans are all different in unique ways, but modern medical treatments ignore genetic variations among individuals. People of different ethnicities, genders and ages have to take drugs that were developed based on genetic criteria entirely different from their own.
Moreover, current research methodologies for developing cures for diseases compel biologists to choose between two options: tests conducted on animals or in vitro studies involving cells cultivated in labware such as petri dishes. Both of these approaches do not sufficiently address human diversity. They fail to adequately predict what will happen in people because the environment created for the cells does not sufficiently resemble conditions in the human body. Bi/ond has devised a tool to overcome this problem.
The power of microelectronics
Founded in 2017, Bi/ond has developed a computer chip and platform where biologists can place an individual’s cells. The microchip nourishes, stimulates and monitors the cells as though they were in the body. Bi/ond’s patented organ-on-chip technology allows treatment to be optimised for different applications, including heart, lung, brain and cancer tissues. These dynamic functionalities allow researchers to find the right medicine for a specific individual, paving the way for personalised medicine. The product’s uniqueness derives from the power of microelectronics.
Bi/ond’s relatively cheap and highly customisable technology can be used to conduct ground-breaking research by growing 3D cell cultures in an environment that mimics the human body. Organ-on-chip is a very promising methodology that is expected to lead to improved success in drug development, lower costs and less animal testing.
Two of Bi/ond’s co-founders, CSO William Fausto Quiros Solano and CTO Nikolas Gaio, possess in-depth knowledge of microelectronics and experience with biological solutions. Their insights led to the technological breakthrough. “With our product, we aim to bridge the gap between biology and engineering”, Nikolas Gaio explains. “To build that bridge, we currently have a diverse, interdisciplinary team of six members.” Bi/ond will use part of the €250,000 investment to expand its team with engineers who will work on scaling up the product.
The company’s third co-founder, CEO Cinzia Silvestri, is delighted with UNIIQ’s confidence in Bi/ond’s team and technology: “Thanks to the investment, we can strengthen product development, further invest in our IP portfolio and broaden our customer base. Prestigious hospitals and universities in Europe are already using our product for various purposes, including assessing chemotherapies and studying rare diseases. We want to provide a reliable tool for biologists to develop personalised, inclusive drug testing. This investment is a step towards achieving that goal.”
Hans Dreijklufft, fund manager at UNIIQ: “By developing personalised medicine and reducing animal testing, organ-on-chip technology has the potential to significantly impact human health and animal well-being. We are therefore very happy to invest in Bi/ond. The company’s strong, diverse team is active in many national and European consortia and able to connect with big players in the medical and research world. UNIIQ is pleased to finance this spin-off of Delft University of Technology to help it grow and develop its advanced chip and plate application.”
Bio-tech company Bi/ond was founded in 2017 to improve medical treatment for millions of patients by developing innovative hardware solutions for organ-on-chip applications. Its customisable microchips and platform technology can be used to nourish, stimulate and monitor tissues and cells, facilitating biomedical research that reflects humanity’s natural diversity. This allows for more accurate drug testing and simulations of any tissue type, paving the way for personalised medicine. Based in Delft, the Netherlands, Bi/ond provides its lab technology to some of the top hospitals in Europe and collaborates with many technical institutes and research centres.
UNIIQ is a €22 million investment fund focused on the proof-of-concept phase, which helps entrepreneurs in West Holland bring their unique innovation to market faster. UNIIQ offers entrepreneurs the seed capital to achieve their plans and bridge the riskiest phase from concept to promising business. A consortium, including Erasmus MC, TU Delft, Leiden University and the regional development agency InnovationQuarter, created the fund. UNIIQ is made possible by the European Union, the Province of South Holland and the municipalities of Rotterdam, The Hague and Leiden. InnovationQuarter is responsible for the fund management.
Watch a short introduction to UNIIQ here: https://youtu.be/Ix9VZUsHlyU
This upcoming October 4 – 9, Bi/ond will have the amazing opportunity to sponsor and be an exhibitor on:
The 24th International Conference on Miniaturized Systems for Chemistry and Life Sciences: μTas 2020
During the conference, topics such as Fundamentals in Microfluidics/Nanofluidics, Micro Engineering, Integrated Microfluidic Platforms, Organ-on-Chips, and personalized Medicine and its applications will be covered.
Our CTO and Co-founder, Nikolas Gaio, will provide a 20 min demo of our system with a 5 minutes live Q&A.
Our Field Application Scientist, Amr Othman, will be present in the interactive poster session:
‘NOURISHING, MONITORING AND STIMULATING CELLS WITH BI/OND’S ORGAN-ON-CHIP DEVICE’ (#Th8-879.e)
together with a second live Q&A session.
The MicroTas conference is aimed specifically for the scientific community. Featuring important speakers and activities focused towards solutions on miniaturized life sciences and chemical sciences.
For more information and registration, please visit: https://microtas2020.org/
Niko: When the Covid19 outbreak started to hit Europe, everyone in BI/OND was sure that Organ-on-Chip technology could have a real impact in the fight against the Covid19. We noticed the Organ-on-Chip community was not reacting fast enough. So we decided to do something about it, and we came up with the #OoCovid initiative. This challenge aimed at three main goals.
First and foremost, we wanted to help Covid-19 patients by promoting donations to researchers working on studying the disease and its effects on the human body.
Unity is Strength:
Second, the initiative aimed at convincing all the OOC startups and companies to join forces and work together for a solution.
Need for change:
Third, we wanted to raise awareness regarding the need for new ways of developing drugs and vaccines, to prove that OoC is a valuable alternative.
Rosa: Covid19 has caught us completely off-guard and has caused a global crisis that will take years to overcome. This pandemic has shown us all how fragile our economy is and how unprepared our health systems were for a worldwide pandemic. Now is the time for innovation in vitro-research, to speed up the development of new drugs, treatments and vaccines for new diseases such as Covid19. We believe that the Organ on Chip technology will have a key role in future biomedical research, and the #OoCovid initiative aims to put the OoC technology in the spotlight. #OoCovid will help researchers and private companies to understand better the possibilities of the next generation of in vitro research platforms and the importance of adopting this technology early.
Niko: We believe that OoCs will show their full potential in understanding the effect of Covid-19 on the human body. The combination of OoC and 3D tissues, such as organoids, should not only enable us to understand the mechanisms behind the infection and the damages caused by the virus on lungs, kidneys, heart but also how it interacts with the whole immune system.
Rosa: OoC technology is a powerful tool that will contribute significantly to finding solutions to the medical crisis in the future. OoC can enable us to create models of healthy organs such as a lung-on-chip, that will help us understand better the infection process or test the toxicity of a new treatment in a fast and reliable way. In addition, Organ on a chip technology allows us to model diseased organs and allows us to screen a drug efficacy using cells from a specific population group, that is known to be more susceptible to contracting an illness.
The possibilities are uncanny, and the OoC field is just currently blooming.
Rosa: The field is multidisciplinary. This technology combines the latest advances in tissue engineering with novel developments in microfabrication. Therefore, it is compulsory to create new communication channels between engineers and biomedical researchers to design functional, cheap and easy to use platforms.
Rosa: OoC companies have an enormous task to gather the most relevant advances in OoC technology and take them from the lab to the industry by creating reliable platforms. These platforms will save time and money for researchers and companies that can directly focus on the goal at hand: testing the efficacy or toxicity of a drug, without worrying and spending time in cell culture and organ model validation.
This will pave the way for a faster and more responsive health-care system worldwide, capable of overcoming unexpected crises such as this one.
Niko: OoC has shown to be an extremely versatile technology with a wide range of applications. OoC companies, like BI/OND and BeOnChip, have the duty to identify the applications that will have a real impact on tomorrow’s health-care. At the same time, we have to take into consideration that, to make these technologies widely available, we need to develop technologies that address the day to day issues faced by biologists working in pharmaceutical companies.
We believe that OoC will contribute to advancing the global health-care system, by proving safe, personalized and reliable solutions.
We are extremely excited to announce that BI/OND won the Philips Innovation award last night.
This is a huge achievement for us and it will push the team to go further and faster! We would like to thank the jury,
the organizers and Philips for believing in us.
If you want to know more about last night, we gave an interview to rtlz.nl.
To know more about the Philips Innovation Award follow this link: https://www.phia.nl/
The 16th of November one of our founders, Nikolas Gaio, was awarded in Berlin with a Young Researcher Award in the Lush Prize 2018 for his work ‘Replacing animal tests with silicon chips’.Continue reading
Bi/ond joins forces with the Eindhoven University of Technology and Luxembourg
University to develop a Midbrain-on-a-Chip model for Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most prevalent neurodegenerative disorder in the ageing
population. It is characterized by the progressive loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia
nigra region of the brain. Despite intensive research, the cause of the disease is still elusive, and
there is currently no disease-modifying therapy for its treatment. Therefore, it is crucial to achieving
a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying neuronal degeneration. A major shortcoming
toward this goal is the lack of human-specific predictive models for PD.
A promising approach is the development of human brain organoids, self-assembled from
induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC), as systems to better mimic in vivo physiology. However,
maintaining these organoids alive for extended periods in standard in vitro conditions is extremely
challenging. Due to their structural complexity and large size, these three-dimensional tissue models
often suffer from suboptimal oxygen and nutrition supply, which severely limits their viability.
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