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New MIRA department Applied stem cell technologies

Robert Passier and Christine Mummery have been appointed as Professors at the new MIRA Applied Stem Cell Technologies department at 1 September last. Passier heads the department for four days a week, while Mummery works at the UT one day. Their roles are reversed at the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC), where Mummery spends four days a week as Professor of Development Biology and Passier is employed for one day. There are high hopes for the synergy that this merger of fundamental and applied research is expected to generate.

According to Passier, biology and technology need to complement one another in order to produce better models for the treatment of cardiac diseases and the development of medicines and to make further advances in regenerative medicine. Physical proximity to colleagues and the necessary facilities is an important requirement for this cross-fertilisation, he feels. Since it has become possible to drop in on anyone at any time, he has discovered that the breadth of knowledge relating to biotechnology at MIRA and other UT institutes is even greater than he thought. The conversations he has had have regularly produced new ideas for his research. Conversely, the development of technologies benefits greatly from the fundamental knowledge relating to stem cells that Mummery and Passier have brought with them from Leiden. With this collaboration, the two disciplines and research groups will constantly feed one another and so accelerate and deepen the process of creating and applying knowledge.

Passier is still in the process of establishing his new research group and is having a lot of discussions to generate ideas and identify common interests for his research. He has found a good sparring partner in Andries van der Meer, appointed as an assistant professor in the department (and coordinator of the SRO Organs-on-chips), someone who is also able to show him the ropes at the UT. The current situation is that a number of modifications are being made to the culture facilities, a laboratory technician has been hired and the first two PhD students will be starting work soon. Passier is also busy writing research proposals and raising funds, and expects to have the research group fully operational within the foreseeable future.

About Robert Passier

Robert Passier has 25 years of experience in the field of molecular regulation of cardiac differentiation, development and disease, using in vivo (transgenic and knockout models) and in vitro methodologies. Since 2002 he has worked with human pluripotent stem cells and their differentiation to cardiac cells. He is the inventor of 10 patent applications, has published articles in leading scientific journals and was recently appointed as Professor and Chair of the Department of Applied Stem Cell Technologies at the MIRA Institute for Biomedical Technology and Technical Medicine, University of Twente. 
Research focus:
1) Building 3D human stem cell-based advanced systems (“organ-on-chip”) for modelling cardiac disease and drug screening and regenerative medicine.
2) Understanding the molecular mechanisms of cardiomyocyte (subtype) differentiation, heart development and disease using human pluripotent stem cells as a model
3) Cardiomyocyte biology, function and toxicity using multifunctional advanced and/or high-throughput technologies.