International stem cell research centre established


Monday, 20 December, 2021

International stem cell research centre established

A grant of up to €300 million over 10 years from the Novo Nordisk Foundation, a philanthropic foundation based in Denmark, has enabled the establishment of a major international research centre focused on stem cell medicine.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Stem Cell Medicine (reNEW) will be a collaboration between the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in Australia and Leiden University Medical Center in The Netherlands. The new consortium is expected to stimulate a new wave of global investment in stem cell medicine and technologies, paving the way for future stem cell-based treatments.

While recent scientific advances have allowed us to identify, isolate and engineer stem cells to create human tissue models, repair injured tissues and in the future grow new organs, a deep understanding of stem cell biology in organ development, tissue repair and disease mechanisms is essential to harness the therapeutic potential in stem cell medicine. This is exactly what the new international stem cell research centre aims to achieve, said MCRI’s Professor Melissa Little, who has been appointed CEO of the reNEW partnership.

Prof Little is world-renowned for her pioneering studies into potential regenerative kidney therapies, including growing ‘mini kidneys’ in a dish from stem cells. She will lead the reNEW administrative hub in Copenhagen and will also serve as Executive Director of the University of Copenhagen node. She will divide her time between Copenhagen and MCRI in Melbourne, with her research on kidney disease advancing in both sites.

“I am very excited about the amazing opportunity that reNEW represents,” said Prof Little, who was also elected President of the International Society for Stem Cell Research this year. “Building on the stem cell research excellence that exists within all partners, the centre delivers international collaborative critical mass and access to extensive technical and clinical translation expertise across all sites. This will enable outcomes across the breadth of stem cell medicine — new drugs based on human stem cell models, cell and tissue therapies, and new cell and gene therapies. We can’t wait to get started.”

The reNEW model will pivot from the traditional academic model of stem cell research to targeted, patient-centred outcomes. This vision is anchored on state-of-the-art stem cell science, which will feed into three clinically relevant research themes:

  • The reBUILD theme will focus on the use of stem cells to regenerate or recreate tissue after it has been damaged or destroyed.
  • The reSOLVE theme will screen for potential drug candidates using stem cell-based models of human tissue.
  • The reWRITE theme will use a combination of gene editing and stem cell technologies to develop new treatment strategies for genetically inherited diseases.
     

A fourth theme, PREPARE, will study the societal, ethical, regulatory and legal barriers in stem cell medicine, paving the way for the delivery of future treatments.

Scientists at the three institutions will work in collaborative groups across all themes to provide new therapeutic options for patients with incurable diseases. Exchange programs and joint technology platforms in the reNEW model will fuel these collaborations and also the training of new generations of scientists in translational stem cell medicine — a field that promises to be a game changer when it comes to addressing some of the major health challenges facing the world today, according to Novo Nordisk Foundation CEO Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen.

“With the establishment of this new centre, the aim is not just to further stem cell-based research through international collaborations, but also to strengthen the pathway from scientific discovery to targeted outcome, whether in the form of new medical technology or new forms of treatment for the benefit of patients,” he said.

The research activities within the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Stem Cell Medicine will begin in January 2022.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/pinkeyes

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