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Two UT researchers backed by ERC to bring research findings to market

Two UT researchers have been granted Proof of Concept funding by the European Research Council (ERC). Detlef Lohse and Jeroen Rouwkema will receive a financial contribution to explore the further commercial and innovation potential of their research. Detlef Lohse will use his Grant to develop a ‘nano extraction’ prototype. This will enable fast, one step liquid analysis using nano droplets, while Jeroen Rouwkema will be developing a novel method for building vascular networks within cultured tissues. 

Jeroen Rouwkema - Developing a vascular network in cultured tissue

In 2016, Jeroen Rouwkema received an ERC Consolidator Grant for the project VascArbor. In the project, Jeroen and his team work on the development of full-functional cultured tissues as a substitute for donor tissue. This requires cultured tissues to be able to hold an hierarchical vascular network that can further develop and organize its way through the tissue and connect to the vascular network in the human body. A way to achieve this, is by using both tissue building blocks and 3D bioprinting.

Traditional ways of 3D bioprinting already make it possible to build an hierarchical vascular network within cultured tissues. However, current strategies lack the capacity to create hierarchical, high resolution, cost efficient, upscalable constructs in a standardized manner with a single approach.

Within the VascArbor project, Jeroen, together with PhD candidate Vasileios Trikalitis, developed a novel way to 3D print complex biological systems. It is specifically aimed at controlling and defining the printed environment in such a way, that the cells can organize and develop themselves into a fine-structured vascular network.

With the additional financial contribution from the ERC, Jeroen and Vasileios can undertake further steps to putting the developed technology into practice. The project proposal named SE3DPASTE aims at generation of standardized 3D tissue environments that lead to predictable tissue development for research-, clinical-, or drug screening purposes. It includes both a further technological exploration and developing a feasible business proposition.

Jeroen Rouwkema is associate professor at the department of Biomechanical Engineering at the University of Twente’s  Faculty of Engineering Technology. His expertise and research interest are in the field of tissue research, vascularization (blood vessel networks) and the role of biomechanical signals in such processes.

Detlef Lohse - Nano extraction

Which substances are present in a liquid; which of them are active ingredients, which are even harmful? Preparing a good sample for fluid analysis is one of the most difficult steps in chemical analysis. All too often, the process is laborious, time-consuming and difficult to automatize. This plays a role in chemistry, for tracing contaminants, for example, or in biomedical analysis of the presence of tiny traces of medication.

Nanodroplets can play an important role in this, Detlef Lohse and his group showed in an ERC Advanced Grant project. These tiny droplets are on the surface at which the fluid flows. The droplets will not be solved in the liquid flow, but they do extract the substances from the liquid. Analysing the contents of the nano droplets can now be done using a technique called surface spectroscopy. This is a fast, one step process that can be miniaturized in a lab-on-a-chip system. Even extremely low concentrations will be detected, so the technique is promising for a wide range of applications.

Using his new ERC Proof of Concept Grant, Detlef Lohse plans to build a prototype and develop a business plan for the nano extraction technique.

About ERC Proof of Concept

All Principal Investigators in an ERC frontier research project are eligible to participate and apply for an ERC Proof of Concept Grant. The Principal Investigator must be able to demonstrate the relation between the idea to be taken to proof of concept and the ERC frontier research project. The financial contribution of at most € 150 000 will be awarded for a period of 18 months.

Read the official press release of the ERC on all of this year's Proof of Concept grants.

Laurens van der Velde
Press relations (available Mon-Fri)
Wiebe van der Veen
Press relations (available Mon-Fri)